Comprehensive Environmental Efforts

Impact Score36.9
Students Impacted50%

What is a comprehensive environmental effort?

Environmental efforts include a range of programs and interventions at the institutional, community, and individual level to address high-risk drinking by changing the environment through multiple channels.

Research findings

In 1997, the first multisite environmental prevention initiative aimed to reduce college student alcohol use and associated negative consequences was launched. The four-year study was a longitudinal, quasi-experimental analysis of the “A Matter of Degree” (AMOD) program which included 10 AMOD and 32 comparison sites. Results from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study indicated significant declines in alcohol consumption, alcohol-related negative consequences, and secondhand negative consequences for sites implementing a higher number of interventions (Weitzman et al., 2004).

In contrast to the AMOD study, researchers evaluating an environmental prevention campaign to reduce DUIs among college students revealed that fewer program elements can be effective (Clapp et al., 2005). The intervention consisted of increased law enforcement and a social marketing and media advocacy campaign to advertise the enforcement efforts. The intervention resulted in significant decreases to self-reported DUI and increased perception of DUI arrest risk.

Another research study on environmental prevention efforts at seven institutions taking part in the Safer California Universities project focused primarily on off-campus drinking. Intervention efforts included DUI checkpoints, decoy operations, nuisance party enforcement, and media coverage. The project resulted in a decrease in incidence of intoxication and likelihood of intoxication at off-campus parties, bars, and restaurants. Authors also noted that there was not an increase in negative behavior at non-target settings. In other words, as intoxication incidence went down at off-campus venues, a displacement effect, defined as alcohol use migrating from the targeted setting to others that were not the target of the intervention, was not observed (Saltz et al., 2010).

A 2009 study evaluated an intensive and heavily-publicized enforcement program in a college community (McCartt et al., 2009). Enforcement of minimum drinking age laws consisted of fake ID and server law compliance checks. Enforcement of drinking and driving laws consisted of sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and DUI directed patrols. The enforcement efforts were publicized through a community-wide multimedia campaign and on-campus through posters, the student newspaper, and counseling sessions. The efforts resulted in increased perception of enforcement, reduction in driving at elevated BAC levels, and reduction in drivers under 21 with a positive BAC.

Issues and considerations

Environmental efforts often include increased enforcement of policies. Enforcement and education must go hand-in-hand in order to be successful. It is critical to involve students in the process and educate them about new enforcement efforts through social marketing and media campaigns including poster campaigns, signage in the residence halls, or web communications. Some students may object to increase enforcement, but as seen by many administrators who have weathered these changes, the resistance comes from a minority of students, and many students express appreciation of efforts to create a safer campus environment.

Clapp, J., Johnson, M., Voas, R., Lange, J., Shillington, A., & Russell, C. (2005). Reducing DUI among US college students: results of an environmental prevention trial. Addiction, 100(3), 327-334.

McCartt, A. T., Hellinga, L. A., & Wells, J. K. (2009). Effects of a college community campaign on drinking and driving with a strong enforcement component. Traffic Injury Prevention, 10(2), 141-147.

Saltz, R., Paschall, M., McGaffigan, R., & Nygaard, P. (2010) Alcohol risk management in college settings: The Safer California Universities Project. American Journal of Prevention Medicine, 30(6), 491-499.

Weitzman, E., Nelson, T., Lee, H., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Reducing drinking and related harms in college: Evaluation of the “A Matter of Degree” program. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(3), 187-196.