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ACU intervention to raise awareness of early drinking in WA

Researchers from Australian Catholic University (ACU) will lead a three-year community-based intervention in Western Australia to raise awareness amongst parents of the effects of early alcohol initiation.

The study, which will begin in mid-2015, will be led by Professor Sandra Jones, Director of ACU’s Centre for Health and Social Research, which is part of ACU’s new Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research. 

Professor Jones said that although many parents allow their children to consume small quantities of alcohol under supervision in the belief that it may protect them from future harmful drinking, there is increasing evidence to suggest that the earlier children are introduced to alcohol, the more they drink.

“Our project will focus on the provision of ‘sips and tastes’ to children under the age of 15 years; that is the age group in which parents are likely to introduce their children to alcohol. We need to target these parents before they face the decision of whether to allow their children to ‘try’ alcohol,” Professor Jones said.

The project will involve the development and implementation of a comprehensive, community-based intervention that is founded on the evidence-based principles of social marketing, something which Professor Jones said is an invaluable tool in bringing about cultural and behaviour change, and improving health and social outcomes.

“We aim to educate parents and community members about the negative effects of early alcohol initiation and to correct misperceptions around ‘teaching’ children to drink safely.  We also want to empower parents and community members to give them the knowledge and skills needed to provide a strong and unified message of non-provision of alcohol to children and teenagers,” Professor Jones said.

The study is funded by a prestigious West Australian Government Healthway grant.

Professor Jones will undertake the research in collaboration with colleagues from the Swinburne University of Technology, Curtin University and the University of Wollongong.

The researchers are looking to select two communities to participate in the study.  Communities can be either regional, outer-metropolitan or rural but ideally based near to Perth.  The researchers are looking to recruit before the end of the year and those interested in taking part should email Professor Jones on sandra.jones@acu.edu.au

It was announced last week that Professor Jones has been awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant for her research Drunk on confidence, glamour, and fun: Alcohol advertising to women in Australia.

ACU is the nation’s leading university for health studies. It has recently launched several new research institutes including the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research and the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education.

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