Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (SPARC)



Implementers: Wake Forest University

Partners: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Program Overview1: SPARC is a program that aims to reduce high-risk drinking and its negative consequences among college students.

Program Design1: SPARC uses a community-organizing model to bring together campus and community stakeholders for the purpose of reducing high-risk drinking among college-students. At universities where SPARC is implemented, SPARC-affiliated campus/community organizers (COs) are sent to build such coalitions. Once formed, these coalitions are presented with a list of strategies to best target high-risk drinking based on evidence from published sources. They fall into 4 categories: availability, price and marketing, social norms, and harm minimization. Choosing among this list of strategies, coalitions go on to develop and implement an action plan targeting primarily environmental factors.

Evaluation2: In a 2010 study, 10 North Carolina Universities were randomized to either an intervention or control group. Each intervention school was then assigned a campus/community organizer (CO) who forged a coalition between campus and community stakeholders. These coalitions then developed and implemented various strategies to reduce high-risk drinking such as bans on alcohol advertising on campus, increased sanctions for student alcohol violations, a 'safe rides' program, and meetings with local premises selling alcohol to improve service practices. The program, which was implemented over a period of 3 years, was evaluated using a series of 4 web-based surveys given to students. The first was given at baseline before the start of the program and the following three were given each following year. The survey asked students whether, in the past month, they had experienced:

  • moderate or severe consequences due to their own drinking
  • interpersonal consequences due to others' drinking
  • community consequences due to others' drinking
  • alcohol related injury to oneself or others 

Key findings2The surveys revealed decreases in the intervention group compared with the comparison group in severe consequences due to students’ own drinking and in alcohol related injuries caused to others. In secondary analyses, higher levels of implementation of the intervention were associated with reductions in interpersonal consequences due to others’ drinking and alcohol-related injuries caused to others.


  1. Wagoner, K. G., Rhodes, S. D., Lentz, A. W., & Wolfson, M. (2010). Community organizing goes to college: a Practice-based model to implement environmental strategies to reduce high-risk drinking on college campuses. Health Promotion Practice, 11(6), 817-827.
  2. Wolfson, M., Champion, H., McCoy, T. P., Rhodes, S. D., Ip, E. H., Blocker, J. N., Martin, B. A., et al. (2012). Impact of a randomized campus/community trial to prevent high-risk drinking among college students. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(10), 1767-1778.

Target Audience: University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Drinking and Driving, Underage Drinking
Setting: Licensed premises, Local government/ law enforcement departments, School clubs or community organizations, University
Approach: Community or Environmental
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