Early unsupervised drinking - reducing the risks. The School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project
Faculty of Education and Arts
Kurongkurl Katitjin, Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
The School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP) aimed to reduce alcohol related harm by enhancing students' abilities to identify and deal with high-risk drinking situations and issues. The SHAHRP study involved a quasiexperimental research design, incorporating intervention and control groups and measuring change over a 32-month period. The study occurred in metropolitan, government secondary schools (13 – 17-year-olds) in Perth, Western Australia. The 14 intervention and control schools involved in the SHAHRP study represent approximately 23% of government secondary schools in the Perth metropolitan area. The sample was selected using cluster sampling, with stratification by socio-economic area, and involved over 2300 intervention and control students from junior secondary schools. The retention rate of the study was 75.9% over 32 months. The intervention incorporated evidence-based approaches to enhance potential for behaviour change in the target population. The intervention was a classroom-based programme, with an explicit harm minimization goal, and was conducted in two phases over a 2-year period. The results were analysed by baseline context of alcohol use to assess the impact of the programme on students with varying experience with alcohol. Knowledge and attitudes were modified simultaneously after the first phase of the intervention in all baseline context of use groups. The programme had little behavioural impact on baseline supervised drinkers; however, baseline non-drinkers and unsupervised drinkers were less likely to consume alcohol in a risky manner, compared to their corresponding control groups. In line with programme goals, early unsupervised drinkers from the intervention group were also significantly less likely to experience harm associated with their own use of alcohol compared to the corresponding control group. Unsupervised drinkers experienced 18.4% less alcohol-related harm after participating in both phases of the programme and this difference was maintained (19.4% difference) 17 months after the completion of the programme. This study indicates that a school drug education programme needs to be offered in several phases, that programme components may need to be included to cater for the differing baseline context of use groups, and that early unsupervised drinkers experience less alcoholrelated harm after participating in a harm reduction programme.