Providing Comprehensive Health Education
Because they are in the business of education, colleges and universities must aim to fully educate their students. That includes education for a full and productive life. Detailing the academic, social, health, and safety hazards of alcohol abuse must be ongoing. A recent report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University notes that epidemiologic evidence points to an increasingly strong connection between alcohol abuse and a variety of health problems, including AIDS, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Moreover, the report recognizes growing evidence that college drinking patterns can lead to future, more serious alcoholism problems.
Any comprehensive health education program needs to provide, at a minimum:
“If we are to accomplish anything, there must be adequate funding for program expansion in all areas. No longer can the lone substance abuse professional and/or counselor be expected to carry the program. We must have services —diagnostic, testing, treatment, education and counseling— available in sufficient numbers to meet the need. And, of course, we must recognize and admit that there is a need on our campus.”
Margaret Bridwell, M.D.
Such a program must be based on fact and research, and should lead to reducing the incidence and prevalence of underage drinking, abusive high risk/binge drinking, and negative consequences for individuals and those associated with alcohol consumption. It should reinforce the positive culture of the country as a whole and deemphasize the subculture of alcohol abuse. Social norming campaigns are a positive example of how this can be done to effectively change behavior.
Educators should consider the culture and demographics of their individual institution and the roles which gender, race, age and developmental level play to insure that a program of education attracts and reaches students. Students at historically black colleges, for example, seem to have fewer problems related to alcohol and other drug use, the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention reports. Extensive support networks for academic and professional achievement, high regard for family and spiritual values, a deep sense of shared history and vision, multi-faceted community ties, and pride in African roots may be important characteristics that differentiate these schools from other institutions. Building on the strengths and characteristics of an individual university’s community is of great value.
“…These first few weeks are obviously very important in setting the standards we expect these students to meet and in setting the tone of campus community life.…
Collegiate Alcohol Abuse: Recommendations and Guidelines