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Computerised Alcohol Intervention For Students

Computerised Alcohol Intervention For Students Gets Promising Results

Am I drinking too much? University of Otago students who wanted to know the answer to this question logged on to an individualised computer programme at the Student Health Service. The programme was popular with students and got promising results, according to the researchers who have developed and just finished evaluating the programme.

The computer-based assessment and intervention tool has been designed to reduce dangerous levels of drinking among university students. For the students, a big plus is there is none of the embarrassment of talking face to face with a health professional, everything is confidential and they are offered feedback on their drinking and advice on changes if necessary.

It was part of a three-year project being conducted through the Injury Prevention Research Unit (IPRU) based at the University of Otago. The Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) and the Health Research Council (HRC) jointly funded the project.

These results are contained in the final report of the trial being handed over to ALAC today.

Because of the success of the first part of the project, ALAC and the HRC have agreed to fund the project for a further three years to look at the broader community initiatives that will also assist in reducing alcohol-related harm said ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy.

Researcher Dr Kypros Kypri says there is compelling evidence that assessment and feedback or advice given by a health professional – known as brief interventions -can be very effective to reduce alcohol consumption and related harm in adults.

“Up until now, however, there has been little research on how brief interventions work with young people. The challenge for us has been to find an acceptable way of intervening with students who might be at risk from hazardous drinking.

“Given the promising results of the project, its acceptability to the target population, and the ease with which it can be implemented, this approach has the potential to become a useful tool in the prevention of alcohol-related harm among young people”.

Dr MacAvoy says the project has been focused on university students because there has long been concern about hazardous levels of drinking among them.

“Research at universities in New Zealand in 2000 suggests that levels of drinking among tertiary students is greater than that in the general population of the same age,” he says. Tertiary students comprise 31 percent of people in the 18-22 years age group in the general population.

“Hazardous drinking by young people can lead to injury, crime or unprotected sex, academic failure to addiction and other chronic health outcomes. Preventing these kind of outcomes is one of the reasons why we are interested in working with students.”

Interventions with students are an important part of the picture but international evidence demonstrates that enforcement of liquor licensing laws may have a greater impact on levels of harm.

The next stage of the study will therefore not only extend the computer-based intervention to other tertiary settings, it will also look at what measures put in place by local councils around the country are effective.

ALAC is pleased to be continuing this work with world-renowned researchers. Professor John Langley was recently awarded the prestigious International Distinguished Career Award from the American Public Health Association Injury Control and Emergency Health Services.

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