Stanford joins forces with peers to address high-risk drinking

Stanford is one of 14 colleges and universities that have joined the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, a national initiative that will use comprehensive evaluation and measurement techniques to identify and implement the most effective ways to confront this persistent problem.

Stanford University has joined 13 other colleges and universities from across the country to address high-risk drinking on American campuses. The Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking will use comprehensive evaluation and measurement techniques to identify and implement the most effective ways to confront this persistent problem and lessen the harm it causes.

The Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking is the inaugural effort of the National College Health Improvement Project (NCHIP), a joint undertaking between Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. 

"I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with our peer institutions on the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking. Through this effort, we will be able to dig deep into this issue by collecting data and sharing best practices for dealing with this very concerning trend," said Stanford President John Hennessy.

According to Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, nearly 40 percent of college students in the United States engage in binge drinking, a number that has remained virtually unchanged for decades.

"By collaborating on this issue," Kim said, "we are much more likely to make meaningful and lasting progress than if each school attempts to tackle this critical issue on its own."

In addition to Stanford and Dartmouth, the institutions that have joined the initiative to date are Princeton University, Boston University, Cornell University, Duke University, Frostburg State University, Northwestern University, Ohio University, Purdue University, Sewanee: The University of the South, Stony Brook University, University of Wyoming and Wesleyan University.

"Binge drinking is a serious public health challenge, leading to injury and, in some cases, death for hundreds of thousands of college students each year," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "HHS agencies have tackled this issue over the years, strengthening the evidence base and identifying interventions that work to reduce binge drinking. The Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking is a promising initiative that will implement evidence-based practices at college campuses around the nation. We look forward to partnering with college leadership on this effort."

Teams from each school in the collaborative will convene for a series of face-to-face meetings every six months beginning in June. Between those meetings, teams will share outcomes and implementation methods to assess which programs work, where they work and why, focusing principally on the evidence-based interventions developed in recent years that have been shown to be effective.

At Stanford, the effort will be led by Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center. His team will include Ralph Castro, associate director of health promotion services at Vaden; Deborah Golder, dean of residential education; Laura Wilson, Stanford's chief of police; and Jenny Bergeron, manager of assessment and program evaluation. The team also will include student and faculty representatives.

The Learning Collaborative methodology was developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass., and is aimed at spreading and adapting knowledge to different settings in order to address a given problem or health concern. This model has been used successfully in medicine and public health. Using this system, participants are able to implement changes quickly and determine which methods are most effective in their institutions. These experiences then inform the process and progress of the group as a whole.

A centerpiece of the methodology is its focus on measurement. Various measures will be developed to track the progress of the effort, in consultation with experts from across the country. Data will be shared and compared among participant institutions with the goal of both lowering the rate of binge drinking and reducing the incidence of the harm associated with this behavior.

Nearly 2,000 college students in the United States die each year from alcohol-related injuries, including motor vehicle accidents, and an estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In addition, research has consistently shown that binge drinking often leads to sexual abuse and unsafe sex as well as academic problems. NCHIP aims to bring population health improvement methods to bear on problems affecting student health and plans to organize future collaborative efforts on other health issues.

Elaine Ray, director, campus communications: (650) 723-7162;