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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 11, 2006

NIH Grant To UI Addresses Underage Drinking

A three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, will help University of Iowa researchers study how increased primary care services might help curb underage drinking in rural Iowa.

The grant, which was effective Oct. 1, was awarded to the Adolescent Medicine Program in the Department of Pediatrics in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Youths ages 10 to 18 will play an important role in the study effort.

In rural Iowa, preteens and teens are involved in a culture of binge drinking and drive under the influence at rates higher than the national norm. One approach to preventing or intervening early when it comes to risky behaviors is through primary care providers, said James Hall, Ph.D., UI professor of pediatrics and the study's lead investigator.

"Many kids stop seeing their family doctor or pediatrician when they're around age 12 or 13. Increasing visits to primary care clinics can help teens and preteens maintain overall good health and be educated about risk factors so they can minimize those risks," said Hall who also holds appointments in the UI School of Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Public Health and the College of Nursing. 

Hall said an important aspect of the research is to directly involve youths in developing the intervention programs. The project will incorporate the Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services screening system already developed by the American Medical Association and a proposed "video doctor" that would provide online advice.

"The overall concept is for youths to be able to have anonymous online access to a series of clips in which doctors address topics of concern: alcohol, drugs, sex and other risky behaviors. The youths will be given age-appropriate feedback and have the choice of receiving information from a male or female doctor, Spanish-speaking doctors or African-American physicians," Hall said.

The program also includes ways to keep parents involved. "Although adolescents need to become independent from their parents in many ways, it still is important for teens and parents to work together on issues such as alcohol abuse," Hall said.

The research initially will involve the UI's Adolescent Health and Resource Center in Iowa City, a well as five UI Community Medical Service (CMS) centers in Iowa City, Lone Tree, North Liberty, Lowden and Belle Plaine. Eventually, the researchers seek to expand the program to all CMS clinics in eastern Iowa.

Hall said the project could integrate well with other efforts in the community and university to curb underage drinking.

"Other programs are addressing environmental issues such as whether only people age 21 and older should be legally allowed to enter bars. We need to address this issue from such policy standpoints, yet also have options at the individual level so that every adolescent has a chance to make a good decision," Hall said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660

PHOTO: James A. Hall: