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Keywords:

  • College Students;
  • High Risk Drinking;
  • Prevention;
  • Trial;
  • Environmental

Background

High-risk drinking by college students continues to pose a significant threat to public health. Despite increasing evidence of the contribution of community-level and campus-level environmental factors to high-risk drinking, there have been few rigorous tests of interventions that focus on changing these interlinked environments. The Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (SPARC) assessed the efficacy of a comprehensive intervention using a community organizing approach to implement environmental strategies in and around college campuses. The goal of SPARC was to reduce high-risk drinking and alcohol-related consequences among college students.

Methods

Ten universities in North Carolina were randomized to an Intervention or Comparison condition. Each Intervention school was assigned a campus/community organizer. The organizer worked to form a campus–community coalition, which developed and implemented a strategic plan to use environmental strategies to reduce high-risk drinking and its consequences. The intervention was implemented over a period of 3 years. Primary outcome measures were assessed using a web-based survey of students. Measures of high-risk drinking included number of days alcohol was consumed, number of days of binge drinking, and greatest number of drinks consumed (all in the past 30 days); and number of days one gets drunk in a typical week. Measures of alcohol-related consequences included indices of moderate consequences due to one's own drinking, severe consequences due to one's own drinking, interpersonal consequences due to others' drinking, and community consequences due to others' drinking (all using a past 30-day time frame). Measure of alcohol-related injuries included (i) experiencing alcohol-related injuries and (ii) alcohol-related injuries caused to others.

Results

We found significant decreases in the Intervention group compared with the Comparison group in severe consequences due to students' own drinking and alcohol-related injuries caused to others. In secondary analyses, higher levels of implementation of the intervention were associated with reductions in interpersonal consequences due to others' drinking and alcohol-related injuries caused to others.

Conclusions

A community organizing approach promoting implementation of environmental interventions can significantly affect high-risk drinking and its consequences among college students.