Professors develop alcohol intervention tool

Campuses across the country will use it to assess prevention plans.

by Eliana Schreiber

A team of professors and alcohol policy experts announced a new preventative tool for addressing binge drinking on college campuses last week.
The tool, called the College Alcohol Intervention Matrix and partly developed by University faculty members, compares various high-risk drinking prevention strategies to determine which are most effective for universities’ individual needs.
The tool lists a total of 60 strategies divided into two matrices — individual strategies and environmental strategies — said Traci Toomey, a professor in the School of Public Health who helped develop it.
“The rationale behind these two matrices is that we know there are problems with student drinking across many campuses,” Toomey said. “We know that a lot of campuses implement things that aren’t the most effective strategies.”
Individual strategies include intervention at a personal level, like educating students about alcohol abuse. Strategies on an environmental level are specific to the alcohol environment at individual schools, like restricting happy hours in bars and increasing taxes on alcohol.
While the problems associated with student drinking initially affect the students who drink, Toomey said, they can also affect other students and surrounding neighborhoods.
Toben Nelson, a public health associate professor who also worked on the matrix, said the project aims to present colleges with a menu of options for intervention strategies.
“There is no single strategy that is going to be effective in preventing this problem,” he said.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will send out matrix information to every college president in the country, Toomey said. 
At the University of Minnesota, the matrix is helping reinforce some of the environmental strategies already in place, said Dave Golden, director of public health and communications at Boynton Health Service.
Boynton has used preventative strategies in the past, Golden said, including the online AlcoholEdu program for incoming freshmen. Boynton also employs chemical health personnel who work with students at risk of addiction.
“Over the years, we’ve seen a slow but sure tick-down of high-risk drinking rates,” Golden said.
Alcohol-related policy violations are the most common types of violations on the University campus, said Susan Stubblefield, Housing and Residential Life associate director.
Policy requires staff members to take action when they become aware of a problem related to alcohol, she said.