Mass media campaigns have the ability to reach many students at risk for binge drinking and change the misperception that binge drinking is a “normal” college student activity. These campaigns include health promotion messaging via print media, social media, and emails. In the current study, nursing students implemented a mass media campaign with counter-advertising and social norming messages at a private faith-based university in the Midwest. Posters, educational displays, a student newspaper ad, electronic ads, Instagram posts, and educational sessions were included in the campaign. Outcomes were assessed by surveying students before and after the campaign implementation. The study used a modified version of the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey: Long Form. All undergraduates were invited to participate. Approximately one-third of students completed the survey (baseline n = 1095; post-intervention n = 1011).
The samples of participants collected before and after the intervention were representative of the student body. Both samples aligned well with previous studies that have found increased binge drinking among athletes and Greek affiliates. Nearly 88% of respondents reported viewing campaign messages—a far higher rate than reported in similar studies. The most commonly viewed materials were posters and displays on campus. Displays were created by nursing students and targeted to days of high likelihood for binge drinking, such as Halloween and Greek bid day. For example, the Halloween display included a graveyard with statistics about the consequences of binge drinking. The study found binge drinking rates significantly declined post-intervention compared to baseline.
Limitations of this study include its inability to determine causation or to generalize results to different types of universities, including larger institutions. A notable strength of this study is its engagement of students in every aspect of the research process and program delivery.
Take Away: Novel, multi-faceted media campaign decreased binge drinking on campus with social norming messages and educational displays created by students.