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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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What Colleges Need to Know Now: An Update on College Drinking Research

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Recommendations for the Research Community

As the Task Force explored the role of the research community in supporting college drinking prevention programs, the need for both new and expanded research-oriented activities became clear. Researchers, no matter their subject specialty or interest, are members of their college or university community and, as such, have a unique knowledge and concern about alcohol-related problems. Specifically, researchers need improved methods for understanding the dimensions of the alcohol problem on campus, developing timely answers to immediate policy questions, and evaluating the impact of prevention programs on student drinking. In the Task Force's view, enhancing both the methods and opportunities for conducting evaluations is a priority. Well-designed evaluations increase the likelihood of program effectiveness, maximize the use of resources, and validate program credibility. Evaluation results also help researchers develop the knowledge needed to inform future policies and programs (Saltz and DeJong, 2002).

To amass the research-based information needed to improve campus-based prevention policies and programs, the Task Force recommends that the research community:

  • Expand its focus on extracting information from existing research databases and studies and produce findings that are immediately useful in understanding college drinking.
  • Develop specific standards and guidelines for assessing campus alcohol problems, monitoring trends, and evaluating interventions. This should include developing more effective screening tools for use by clinicians and researchers to facilitate the identification of at-risk, problem, and dependent drinkers among college students.
  • Improve existing data systems such as the Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vital Statistics Mortality files to more accurately specify, count, and monitor college student deaths over time.
  • Collaborate with universities to capitalize on the "natural" research opportunities that emerge when schools, communities, or States institute a major policy change that affects multiple aspects of the academic community—for example, restricting sales of alcohol at school-sponsored events.
  • Partner with individual institutions to implement short-term studies to assess the impact of popular, commonsense strategies for changing campus-based environmental policies and practices that have not yet been comprehensively evaluated. The strategies in Tier 3 could be effectively studied through short and relatively simple campus-based research efforts.
  • Offer assistance to colleges and universities in using research-based evidence to develop and improve current alcohol policies.


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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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