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Purdue, partners to address high-risk drinking on college campuses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –- Purdue is joining 13 colleges and universities from across the country to address high-risk drinking on American campuses.

This unprecedented group initiative – the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking – will use comprehensive evaluation and measurement techniques to identify and implement the most effective ways to confront this persistent problem.

“Using proven methodology, this collaborative of universities will analyze various approaches and develop best practices,” said Purdue President France A. Córdova. “Purdue can adapt those to our own university and share our findings with others.”

About 40 percent of college students in the United States engage in binge drinking. A binge, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is having several drinks – four for women and five for men – in a couple of hours. At Purdue, the most recent survey found its percentage slightly lower at 37 percent.

“By collaborating on this issue, comparing our experiences and learning from each other’s best practices, we believe we are much more likely to make meaningful and lasting progress than if each school attempts to tackle this critical issue on its own,” said Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, a leader in the effort.

In addition to Purdue and Dartmouth, members of the collaborative include Boston, Cornell, Duke, Frostburg State, Northwestern, Ohio, Princeton, Stanford, Stony Brook and Wesleyan universities, the University of Wyoming and Sewanee: The University of the South. Additional universities and colleges will be accepted through May 20.

The group’s methodology was developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass., and is aimed at spreading and adapting knowledge to different settings in order to address a given problem or health concern. This model has already been used hundreds of times in medicine and public health.

A centerpiece of the methodology is its focus on measurement. Various measures will be developed to track the effort’s progress, in consultation with experts from across the country. Data will be shared and compared among participant institutions with the goal of lowering the rate of binge drinking.

Each institution will appoint dedicated teams composed of students and administrators to the collaborative, which will convene in June for the first of a series of face-to-face meetings that will take place every six months. In between those meetings, teams will share outcomes and implementation methods to assess which programs work, where they work and why, focusing principally on the evidence-based interventions developed in recent years that have been shown to be effective. There will be three collaborative learning sessions during the next year, after which the group expects to publish its findings.

“An issue as complex as binge drinking is ideal to take on through this collaborative process,” said Lloyd Provost, senior fellow to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a collaborative adviser. “The key to a successful collaborative is to effectively combine the subject matter experts’ knowledge with the local contextual knowledge of teams on college campuses.”

Close to 2,000 college students in the United States die each year from alcohol-related injuries – including motor vehicle accidents – and an estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In addition, research has consistently shown that binge drinking often leads to sexual abuse and unsafe sex as well as academic problems.

Among the programs at Purdue is AlcoholEdu, which will be rolled out to all new undergraduate students in July. This online, confidential education course will provide students, whether they drink or not, with information to make well-informed decisions about alcohol and provide some simple strategies to help keep them and their friends safe. Colleges that have used AlcoholEdu have seen reduced alcohol-related negative consequences such as drunk driving, injuries and missed classes.

“Purdue’s offering of AlcoholEdu and the course’s effect will be comprehensively measured and reported,” said Lee Gordon, assistant vice president for student affairs.

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