Information for the parents of college students
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One Way Colleges Are Addressing Student Drinking

The statistics on student drinking are alarming.  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 4 in 10 college students engage in high risk drinking and 4 of 5 who drink may engage in binge drinking.  Approximately 1800 students per year die in alcohol related incidents.  The links between alcohol abuse and poor academic performance, personal injuries and sexual assault are becoming increasingly apparent.

Alcohol abuse by students is not a new problem.  Parents and students need to continue to have conversations about the seriousness of drinking, and colleges need to continue to address the problem on campus.

One approach that some colleges are taking is participating in the National College Health Improvement Program (NCHIP).  This program, founded in 2011 by Dr. Jim Yong Kim, then president of Dartmouth College, convened a group of 32 colleges and universities to collectively address student health problems.  The inaugural initiative, titled the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, was a “new way of looking at an old problem.”

The 32 institutions gathered in this first initiative made a two year commitment to gathering evidence and measuring outcomes and then sharing ideas that worked.  The collaborative followed a PDSA formula: Plan-Do-Study-Act.  Small initiatives were planned, attempted, tweaked, and then shared with the larger group.  Changes were implemented and were assessed and results measured often and information shared.

In between face-to-face meetings and learning sessions, which brought representatives of all schools together, each school participated in “action periods” in which they attempted small change ideas targeting individual drinkers, the environment in which students drink, and the larger cultural systems of the colleges.  Schools also engaged in monthly collaborative calls and online communication.  Schools worked together with experts from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and nationally recognized faculty members in alcohol harm prevention.

Some examples of programs implemented as part of this initiative include increasing student and parent awareness and engagement about the problem, screening to identify potentially at-risk students, brief interventions following incidents on campus, and discussions with students who visit health clinics.

In June 2013, the NCHIP Wave 2 began during a meeting in Boston, MA.  New schools are joining the initiative as this group continues to address high-risk drinking on college campuses as a public health issue.  Colleges continue to address this problem at an institutional level, but as a college parent, you can help your individual student by continuing to talk about potentially dangerous drinking habits and also by being aware of efforts your student’s school is making to address the problem.

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