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Iowa City-UI alcohol partnership touts new statistics

BY NATE OTJEN | SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Officials from the Partnership for Alcohol Safety say numbers released in the National College Health Assessment align with the partnership’s plans to curb alcohol abuse within the community.

The Partnership for Alcohol Safety — a collaboration between city and University of Iowa officials — met Wednesday and discussed the 2012 National College Health Assessment — a survey that performs a yearly assessment to analyze issues related to students including alcohol use, sexual health, mental health, and personal safety and violence.

Since 2009 — when the Partnership began — the average number of drinks per occasion has dropped nearly 16 percentage points, the percentage of students drinking 10 or more days per month has dropped by 12 percentage points, and the percentage of students experiencing negative consequences as a result of drinking has dropped by 10 percentage points.

“The university is moving in the right direction,” said Greg Pelc, a UI medical student and member of the Partnership. “The university groups are still working to address these issues.”

In the 2011 study, there was an 8 percent decrease in the student high-risk drinking rate and a 16 percent decrease in alcohol related emergency room visits for UI students.

And officials believe the numbers are promising, pointing towards a change in the behavior of UI students.

“We are interested in the percentage of students who drink in high-risk ways at least once in the past two weeks,” Kelly Bender, the coordinator of campus-community harm reduction initiatives said.

Yet despite the statistics showing signs of decrease in alcohol related behavior, Bender said, the UI and the Partnership still have work to be done.

“We know there are issues to address,” she said. “We all have a role in creating a healthier culture.”

Bender said one of the reasons the alcohol-related statistics have decreased in the last three years are due to the initiatives the city and the UI have created to curb alcohol consumption. Some of the alcohol-free initiatives include the Campus Activities Board, SCOPE, Bijou, and Dance Marathon after Dark.

The Partnership also discussed the disorderly house ordinance that is currently in front of the Iowa City City Council in relation to high-risk drinking among UI students.

“I think we’ve seen a calming of the neighborhoods in general,” said Patrick Grim of the University of Iowa Student Government said.

Bender said the decrease is a positive step in the right direction and the UI will continue its work to reduce harmful drinking.

“We have a lot of work to do yet — we’re certainly not done yet,” Bender said. “Culture change takes a long time.”


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