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Effective Prevention

The way to address college and university student high-risk behavior most effectively is through a comprehensive prevention approach. Calling upon a wide range of campus and community resources and constituencies, campus staff, administrators and prevention professionals can foster environments where healthy norms and behavior are promoted and supported, while high-risk behavior is discouraged and deterred.

One such comprehensive approach is environmental management. The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention helped reorient substance abuse prevention activities to focus on changing the campus and community environment as a comprehensive public health-based model, founded on the social-ecological model of behavior change. The Center termed this approach environmental management. Environmental management outlines a comprehensive approach to prevention that goes beyond individually-focused health education programs to include strategies to change the campus and community environment in which students make decisions about their substance use. This Web site references the environmental management approach throughout.

Student drinking is arguably the single most destructive and damaging of high-risk behaviors among this population, with an estimated 1,400 students dying each year according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Report, “A Call To Action: Changing The Culture Of Drinking At U.S. Colleges”. Indeed, on the vast majority of college campuses, alcohol is the drug of choice for most students. While environmental management’s focus on alcohol use is evident in the articulation of the approach, it can also be used as a framework upon which to develop programs and policies to deter and address other drug use by college students. The approach is also relevant to addressing issues of violence and mental health among students, with some important caveats. Visitors, therefore, should reference the Violence and Mental Health sections of this Web site for relevant information on how best to address these specific issues.

The Environmental Management framework encompasses four areas of strategic intervention outlined below, emphasizing one –- Environmental Change –- in an effort to change the broader physical, social, economic, and legal environment that affects students’ decisions about their alcohol and other drug use.



Environmental Change

Efforts to eliminate or modify broader environmental factors that contribute to alcohol and other drug use among students are critical to addressing this problem.

Education

Colleges and universities have traditionally engaged in efforts to change studentsí knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions regarding alcohol and other drug consumption. While research indicates such efforts are not effective in isolation, they are nevertheless an important component of a comprehensive prevention approach.

Health Protection

College and community have a legal obligation to prevent foreseeable harm and to mitigate negative consequences when students make poor alcohol and other drug use decisions.

Intervention and Treatment

While this represents a more ìdownstreamî approach, college administrators have been successful in intervening with and treating students who have alcohol and other drug problems. When offered in combination with other approaches, such interventions are an important part of a comprehensive approach to address the problem.

Key Concepts to Consider:

Key Processes: There are several processes critical to the development and implementation of a successful environmental management prevention effort. These include Strategic Planning, Evaluation, and Engaging Multiple Constituencies.

Multiple Levels of Intervention: The environmental management approach addresses the institutional and community factors and the public policies that affect student decisions about alcohol and other drug use. Promoting the development of comprehensive prevention efforts that address the multifaceted student environment is the most inclusive method of prevention.


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