NUS pilots innovative alcohol harm-reduction scheme

Wednesday 23-05-2018 - 11:11

During the past couple of months, NUS has piloted a new programme aiming to reduce high-risk drinking behaviour among students.

‘Drink Rethink’ is a preventative approach that trains student ambassadors to use an evidence-based behaviour change tool (Identification and Brief Advice, IBA) to deliver alcohol interventions on campus. The programme has tested an existing nationally-recognised approach, IBA, piloting it in two universities: Keele University and The Students’ Union at UWE.

Alcohol IBA entails brief advice sessions, given to people after completing the World Health Organisation-approved Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). This is a harm-reduction approach, aimed at identifying problem behaviours and providing guidance to increasing and higher-risk drinkers.

During the pilots, we have worked with a student focus group, to ensure that the identity, incentives and barriers relating to the intervention were led by student opinion.

Through the pilot, we trained 21 student ambassadors with the skills required to deliver the intervention, delivered over two weeks at one students’ union and three weeks at the other. Through these workshops, students worked on confidence, empathy, communication skills, teamwork, commitment, ability to support and encourage others, positive leadership, good time management, and project management skills. Comprehensive training has allowed students to acquire the skillset and knowledge they need to act as an ambassador.

Ambassadors then invite their fellow students to take part in the intervention. If they agree, they complete the online AUDIT questionnaire. If the participant scores five or above – indicating they are an increasing or higher risk drinker – they are asked to complete the full questionnaire. The ambassador then asks another open question about whether the individual has used any previous strategies for reducing alcohol consumption and the possible benefits of doing this. When the participant is leaving, they are offered an information leaflet matching their risk category. The ambassadors have conducted an alcohol IBA intervention with almost 600 students.

Evaluation to assess the outcomes and impact of the project is in progress; all participants who complete the AUDIT during the intervention are invited to complete a follow-up survey after participation to provide evidence of change. The surveys will look at how students’ alcohol consumption has changed, self-assess common mental health issues, physical health impacts resulting from alcohol consumption, and individual reflection directly on participation in the intervention.

Thank you to the project’s funders, BUPA UK Foundation. 

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