Now we know how Kansas counties can reduce teen drinking

Now we know how Kansas counties can reduce teen drinking

Teen drinking—including binge drinking—is a big community health problem for most Kansas counties, but now it is less of a problem thanks in part to a KU research group that helped 14 Kansas counties understand the process of reducing teen drinking.

Led by Jomella Watson-Thompson of the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development, the KU team was one of the partners in the five-year Kansas Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant (SPF).

Today, in the 14 SPF counties, fewer sixth through twelfth-graders report having a drink in the previous 30 days, a decrease of 11 percentage points. Binge drinking, five or more alcoholic drinks in a row, fell seven percentage points.

But exactly how did the county coalitions achieve this? This is where the Work Group came in.

“A big piece of this is the Online Documentation and Support System,” said Margaret Perez, the former Finney County SPF-SIG director. “It allows us to graph data to show our stakeholders what’s going on.”

The ODSS allows county coalitions to record, code and graph their activities supporting strategies to reduce teen drinking in the areas of academic achievement, family functioning, social norms and enforcement, for example.

“The systematic categorization of activities allows coalitions to examine their contributions to changes in the environment and to understand what human resources, financial or material goods supported the change,” said Watson-Thompson.

The KU Work Group developed the ODSS to quantify the complex phenomena of community change. The KU team, which included Kaston Anderson-Carpenter and Marvia Jones, helps county coalitions make sense of the data of change.

Now that the grant is over, will the counties be able to sustain the reduction in teen drinking? Carpenter aims to find out. He will apply his $2500 Friends of the Life Span Institute award to studying the sustainability of the approaches used in this project in a random sample of the counties as a component of his dissertation research.