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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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Program Evaluation: The Big Picture

Newcomers to the topic of college student drinking are often puzzled to learn that the field’s knowledge of “what works” is relatively slim. Apart from some recent and promising interventions aimed at individual students, the conscientious program planner will find little empirical evidence to guide choices of program and policy interventions aimed at the broader college population. The irony is that this failing is observed precisely in those settings—institutions of higher education—where the commitment to empirical research is high, and expertise in evaluation is readily available.

Two men playing basketball

The broader field of prevention research, which has examined the impact of programs and policies aimed at youth in the general population, provides useful guidance. Indeed, the NIAAA Task Force’s report, A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges, relied to a great extent on this broader literature when identifying recommended prevention strategies for higher education administrators. Even so, it is clear that evaluations of environmentally focused prevention strategies that focus specifically on college populations are sorely needed.

We are urging higher education administrators to incorporate evaluation as an integral part of program planning, which we view to be essential to developing more effective prevention programs and policies. Beyond that, however, we hope that administrators will realize that the evaluations they undertake will also contribute significantly to our knowledge of what works, thereby helping other institutions make wise choices when designing their programs. There is a common goal that all colleges and universities share: to create the conditions that will allow students at our Nation’s institutions of higher education to develop their full potential. Conducting and then sharing the results of evaluations of alcohol prevention efforts is necessary to meet that goal.


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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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