Colleges Team up with Communities to Reduce Binge Drinking

Colleges Team up with Communities to Reduce Binge Drinking

Researchers found that an alcohol control program at Western Washington University that also involved the community—including police efforts—led to a decline in binge drinking by college students. The findings highlight the importance of college-community cooperation in combating problem drinking, says lead researcher Robert F. Salz, PhD, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, CA.

The program also included increased police patrols in neighborhoods that are subject to loud and sometimes dangerous college parties, as well as increased efforts to make off-campus students better neighborhood residents. “If you want to reach students living in the community, you need to work with city agencies and neighborhood associations,” Saltz said.

These efforts also help students understand that they aren’t “living in a bubble” and that they are part of a larger community “with norms and expectations about alcohol abuse and acceptable behavior,” Saltz said.

At Western Washington University, researchers focused on curbing off-campus drinking problems by connecting the college and community. Funds were raised to increase police partrols in neighborhoods where college parties were a problem and to better enforce underage-drinking laws. Efforts to make students aware of their responsibility as residents of the community were also increased. Forums also brought together students, neighborhood residents, and law enforcement to talk about neighborhood issues.

Saltz and his team surveyed students at Western Washington University, another Washington public university that adopted a similar program on its own, and a third campus that served as a comparison site at the beginning of the study and one year later. They found that binge drinking declines at the two intervention universities compared with the control school. Students at the intervention colleges were one-quarter less likely to report heavy drinking in the last two weeks.

“The decline in the frequency of binge drinking is very promising,” Saltz said, noting that off-campus problem drinking will realistically not be eliminated, but that it can “ratcheted down.”

“What we’re all trying to figure out,” Saltz said, “is how to optimally blend all of these efforts to better protect the students’ health and safety.”

Source: Science Daily, Colleges, Communities Combat Off-Campus Student Drinking, June 15, 2009


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