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The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit has been involved in a number of community action projects in the alcohol area.

Formative Evaluation for an
Alcohol and Youth Community Action Project 
Formative Evaluation for an Alcohol and Youth Community Action Project 

This project was funded by the Alcohol Advisory Council. Its objective over the two year period 1997-1998 was to develop and implement significant strategies to reduce alcohol related harm among young people, with a goal of encouraging and empowering communities to address youth alcohol consumption. 

Initial objectives were: 
To encourage and assist in the development of local plans to
minimise the illegal purchase of alcohol by minors 
To encourage and assist the development of local plans aimed at
minimising the levels of alcohol-related harm being experienced by
young people. 

The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit is carried out a formative evaluation of the project which included components based on previous formative evaluation projects undertaken, such as the Community Action Project, the Liquor Licensing Project and the Alcnet Project.

The project involved alcohol health promotion advisers from towns and cities throughout New Zealand. Formative evaluation helped the health promotion advisers to identify opportunities for action in local community settings, and to plan, encourage and support activities in their communities in order to reduce such harm. It included bringing research based knowledge on alcohol issues to help inform courses of action. Formative evaluation enabled the project to be responsive to issues as they emerged during the two years. A component of the formative evaluation was the use of discussion pages on project issues on the world wide web, using the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s web site. This  enabled the health promotion workers to discuss and exchange ideas and obtain information relating to their work.

In taking a harm reduction approach in line with the Alcohol Advisory Council's strategic plan, activities covered a range of issues including drinking and driving, alcohol related violence and safer drinking environments. Other strategies included encouraging enforcement of the minimum drinking age law and the adoption of policy on alcohol management by schools, tertiary education institutions, clubs and sports teams.

Researchers: Liz Stewart, Kim Conway


Alcnet: Computer Networking on Alcohol Issues

This pilot project, funded by the Health Research Council in 1993 and 1994, evaluated the use of email and other forms of computer communication between health promotion advisers. It aimed to establish whether such communication could improve the exchange of information and communication.

Fifteen health promotion workers participated in the project and used email to share information on alcohol and gain support and ideas for working at a local level. The evaluation indicated the technology significantly improved immediate access to information. Workers felt up-to-date and more effective in planning their activities, particularly for those who were relatively new to the alcohol health promotion field. It was important for workers in rural or smaller towns who did not have such access to collegial support as did workers from larger centres. Using email assisted the workers to take collection action on alcohol advertising and to particpate in a review process more effectively than they otherwise would have done. This included organising meetings, submission writing and organising media releases and interviews.

Researchers: Liz Stewart, Max Harre, John Benseman


The Liquor Licensing Project

In 1990 the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit organised a two year project community action project to coincide with the implementation of the new Sale of Liquor Act. The aim was to encourage a public health focus to decision-making on licensing issues.

The Liquor Licensing Project was project funded by the Alcohol Advisory Council, and involved the participation of 18 health promotion advisers in 17 cities and towns throughout New Zealand. The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit undertook formative and process evaluation for the project. Formative evaluation is designed to constructively modify and improve a programme, project or activity during its planning and implementation, so it has a better chance of achieving its aims.

A critical role for the formative evaluators was to help the participants identify goals and develop strategies and activities for achieving them. The formative evaluation components of the project provided information on relevant strategies and guided feedback leading to appropriate modifications of strategies and programmes.

There were five national meetings between the formative evaluators and the health promotion advisors at six monthly intervals over the two year period of the project. The activities undertaken by the health promotion advisers in their home locations emerged largely through the discussion and planning process at the meetings. The role of the formative evaluators was to bring their research-based substantive alcohol knowledge to assist in the discussions. This knowledge indicated that a focus on the policy environment and organisational activity around alcohol sales was more feasible than attempting to change individual drinking behaviour. The formative evaluation team facilitated a task oriented process whereby individuals were able to review and further plan their activities. The evaluators circulated minutes of the meetings and six monthly evaluation reports, and also organised a regular newsletter on research and licensing issues which included contributions from the health promotion advisers.

The work of the health research advisors in the Licensing Project lead to a number of licensing related activities which are still being used in community settings. These include the use of Last Drink Surveys, where police collect data on the last place of drinking of people charged with drink drive and other alcohol-related offences. This data is analysed by health authorities. Licensed premises which are named over a period of time on several occasions are visited with information about host responsibility. If necessary, the licensing inspector or police may also visit. By the end of the project in early 1992, ten regions had or were planning Last Drink Surveys, and these continue to be widely used initiative.

The Last Drink Survey is often used by liquor licensing coordinating committees which were initiated by the health promotion advisers. These are local intersectoral groups which meet regularly to discuss licensing issues and plan action. National guidelines for Last Drink Surveys and Licensing Liaison groups have been put together by working groups coordinated by the police.

Other initiatives by the health promotion advisors included helping design a health questionnaire for Medical Officers of Health to use with liquor licence applicants, working with residents' groups on negotiating conditions on licences, and working with councils in establishing alcohol policies. One health promotion adviser established a group of parents who were worried about access to alcohol by underage people. This group persuaded the local police that they were interpreting the new law wrongly and should not be allowing adolescents access to nightclubs. The police stepped up their monitoring of premises and began enforcing the law more strictly.

The sharing of ideas through Liquor Licensing Project meetings and newsletters meant they were networked and used in several regions around the country. These activities around the Sale of Liquor Act illustrate the many opportunities available to community based organisations to work collectively on issues

Researchers: Liz Stewart, Sally Casswell, Paul Duignan, Andy Thompson


Evaluation of an Alcohol Focused Community Action Project

The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit has evaluated a number of community action projects which involved a community organisation approach to assist different community sectors to address alcohol issues. The Community Action Project, funded by the Medical Research Council and the Alcohol Advisory Council, ran between 1982 and 1985.

A quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate an alcohol-related problem prevention programme. The study compared two cities exposed to a mass-media campaign with two cities which received the same mass-media campaign and also participated in community organization. Two comparable reference cities received no intervention programme. The objectives of the community organization campaign included an increase in support for alcohol policies and the mass media campaign aimed to change attitudes about alcohol use.

Before and after surveys of the general population were carried out to evaluate the outcome of the project. Support for control policies on advertising, availability and price held steady in the treatment communities but dropped in the reference communities. The perception of alcohol being essential to entertaining and as being relatively innocuous decreased significantly in the community-action cities. The project thus appears to have met its objectives in these areas, although primarily by stemming the national trend toward greater support for liberalization.

Other complementary evaluation measures were also obtained including repeated qualitative interviews with key opinion leaders and analysis of print media coverage of alcohol issues. Consistency in the direction of results across different measures encourages confidence that the project did have some impact in the desired direction despite the difficulty of achieving change in this area. The successful implementation of the Community Action Project, though not without controversy both during and after the project, did indicated that an approach to alcohol problem prevention utilizing both mass media and a community organization approach was viable.

Researchers:Sally Casswell, Lynne Gilmore, Liz Stewart, Robin Ransom, Vivian Mcguire


Evaluation of a Collaborative Maori Drink-Drive Programme

The aim of the collaborative project between Huakina Development Trust Board, Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust and the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit was to develop and evaluate a three year community-based programme aimed at preventing alcohol related traffic crash injury among Maori. The project's evaluation research aims were to ensure that the programme was well-grounded in alcohol problem prevention strategies and responsive to emerging issues, to document and analyse the programme's development and implementation and to assess its impact on relevant environmental variables, behaviours and beliefs. The programme aims were to develop and implement a broad range of strategies to reduce alcohol-related traffic crashes. The focus was on raising awareness of and support for culturally viable strategies in Maori settings, on reducing drunkenness in public drinking environments where Maori drink and on strategies which complemented compulsory breath testing.
Formative and process/impact evaluation was used to help meet the project's research aims. Triangulation of data for these components was obtained by using a range of methods including participant observation by the formative evaluator, key informant interviews, media content analysis, flax group discussions and environmental audits.
Messages were perceived as effectively delivered in an innovative and positive Maori framework. Community and community input enhanced the perception of community ownership. Involvement in strategies and decision making increased awareness, informed the marae and community and anchored the programmes in Maori tikanga. The programmes increased social cohesion. This was of particular note in the relationship between the police and Maori community.
The evaluation suggested a number of elements which deserve consideration in future partnership funding ventures with Maori led community action programmes. These were: the value of linkage with an existing organisation which has high standing in the Maori community; the need to adequately resource community action programmes; the need for community control over the development and implementation of strategies to meet agreed objectives; and the need for realistic time frames.

Researchers: Helen Moewaka Barnes, Paul Stanley, Carla Spinola, Allan Wyllie, Sally Casswell



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October 1997