You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Booze’ category.

Best-night

Throughout the month of October, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is the Official On-Screen Charity Partner for the One Direction ‘Take Me Home’ Australian Tour. FARE will be screening video messages at concerts, as well as talking to parents and young people at the concerts about alcohol-free fun. I wrote this post for FARE’s blog, Drink Tank, to share what I would consider to be the best night of my life as a teenager – no alcohol was involved!

Explosive, unbridled, teenage hormone-fuelled excitement doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt the day my parents agreed to let me go to my first live music concert.

I cried tears of joy when mum told me that I’d finally get to see Green Day. And not on an old, over-played VHS tape, oh no. They would be right there in front of me – we would be breathing the same air.

If I got close enough to the stage, maybe I could catch their eye? Maybe, just maybe Billy-Joe’s sweat would flick onto my face as he danced around the stage. It was a long awaited dream come true.

But before you read on I need to be up front with you. 14 year-old me wasn’t exactly a One Direction fan-girl type, or Directioner as they’re affectionately known. In fact, I’m pretty sure 14 year-old me would’ve hated Directioners, but that’s beside the point.

You see, I was more of a Grunger, or at least I wanted to be.

I grew up on the Upper North Shore of Sydney in a nice house with my big brother James and my loving, hard-working parents. James and I both went to good schools, played sport, enjoyed art, and loved writing music (or noise as dad used to call it).

Every time school holidays rolled around, I couldn’t wait to dye my hair some kind of crazy colour, buy a new pair of Dr Martins Boots, or get another ear piercing.

I was a creative spirit, and I was trying to break free. Free from my very comfortable, middle-class existence.

But with a good 17 years between me and my first live music concert experience, I can say without hesitation that Directioners and 14 year-old me probably have a lot in common.

Picture this. It’s summertime, 8 February 1996. Paul Keating was enjoying his last moments as Prime Minister, and Friends had just aired on Australian TV for the first time.

I legged it out of the school grounds with my two best friends straight after 5th period. We hurriedly crammed into a toilet cubicle at Pymble Train Station to change out of our private girl’s school uniforms and into our real identities – freedom!

There I was, rainbow knee-high stockings, skate shoes with matching rainbow laces, a tatty black skirt of mum’s that I’d cut short with a pair of scissors, and a commemorative Kurt Cobain t-shirt.

On the train trip to Central Station we scoffed down sweets, recited line after line of the band’s song lyrics, strategised about how to make it past the security guards to get back stage, and made bets on what the set list would be.

After what felt like a lifetime, we finally arrived. Five hours early for the concert – we were real fans.

Buzzing on sugar, we plonked ourselves down on the footpath with half a dozen other kids. They had “missioned it” from Newcastle that morning – respect.

We marvelled at the gate of the Hordern Pavillion, the infamous rock temple of awesome that my big brother had always gloated about seeing bands play at. Finally it was my turn, and I wasn’t just there to see any band. They were the coolest, most amazing punk rock trio in the world.

I wonder if this is how Directioners will feel when they arrive at the Homebush Bay Stadium on Saturday night?

Sure their hair will be meticulously GHD-styled rather than intentionally mashed into a bird’s nest, sure their makeup will be all glitter and glam, rather than the Courtney Love-inspired racoon eyes look, and of course their short shorts and skinny jeans are a far cry from the stone washed, torn up thrift shop threads we used to wear.

But ultimately, we all just want “one thing”, and that’s to see our heroes up there on stage, blowing our minds.

As night fell over the Hordern, thousands of kids joined the back of the queue outside. It was time.

The loud speaker crackled, and then a voice announced, “before the gates open we would like to remind you that there’s no running allowed inside the venue. I repeat, do not run when we open the gates.”

Well, I think it’s the first and last time I’ll ever witness 7000 teenagers power-walking into a venue. But we managed to get the perfect spot, right at the front and centre of the mosh pit.

For the next three hours we lived the dream. Sweaty, screaming sardines packed into that room so tight that we could hardly breathe.

The band busted out hit after hit, their lyrics and melodies penetrating our souls. They understood our deepest fears, our aspirations, our lives, it was magical.

While in that moment I certainly believed I was the biggest Green Day fan on the face of the planet, I hadn’t realised the extent of my own excitement until I was approached by a towering, shaggy-haired concert goer.

He grabbed my shoulder, leaned down, looked me straight in the eyes and yelled above the music “dude, can I get some of whatever you’re on?”

I paused, puzzled for a moment, and then responded with “nothing man, it’s just the band”! I raised the horns and moshed on.

Finally the end of the set rolled around, and the crowd demanded encore after encore. And then, the drummer, Tre Cool, walked out from behind his kit to the front of the stage, a pair of Zildjian drum sticks clasped in one hand.

He gestured to the crowd with a “who wants these” signal, and of course everyone went nuts. He paced to the right of the stage and pegged the first drum stick into the crowd. Then he strode back to the left of the stage and stopped, right in front of me.

The mosh pit surged, people were pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try and line up with him. I kept my focus.

And then, it happened. His arm propelled the second drum stick towards us. In slow motion I saw it, rotating as it flew gracefully through the air. Someone next to me jumped, but they were too eager, a premature attempt. I waited, I had it in my sights.

Then, like a seasoned AFL player, I grabbed hold of the guy in front of me and leapt into the air, pushing off his shoulders to get an extra bit of height.

I reached out my hand and snapped the drum stick out of the air!

I bolted for the exit, running from the group of crazed fans that wanted to steal it from me. As I passed through the entrance to the Hordern I spotted the Wendy’s ice-cream van, and slid underneath it to seek refuge while I waited for the mob to pass.

It wasn’t until years later that I realised the significance of that moment. What I had that night was something that people search for; that raw, untamed excitement and the ability to express it without a care in the world. Or more importantly, without a drug in the world.

I hope that this month One Direction fans feel what I felt that night. I hope they can’t contain themselves. I hope they are completely overwhelmed by the experience. I hope they remember every glorious detail. I hope they don’t grow up too quickly. And most of all, I hope they always remember that they don’t need a drink in their hand to have the best night of their lives.

This post was originally published on Drink Tank.

Advertisements

Dave-Nixon
“I feel like I’m so far ahead. I couldn’t imagine getting to the end of this year without taking the year off drinking alcohol. It’s given me a fresh perspective and it’s easily the best thing I’ve ever done, hands down.”

As Dave Nixon walks towards me in a busy café in Canberra’s inner north, the first thing I notice is the bold lettering printed across the front of his t-shirt ‘YOU SAID TOMORROW YESTERDAY’. He takes off his baseball cap, roughs up his blonde spikey hair, cracks a big smile and gives me a bear-like hug as he joins me at the table.

Almost two years ago Nixon did something that not many 23 year olds can boast. He opened his own business, FuncFitness Australia which now sees Nixon and his three employees work with a diverse range of Canberrans to improve their health and lifestyle.

Nixon believes that nutrition plays a bigger role in people’s overall health than movement does. He says the real problem Australia has on its hands is what people are consuming, not how much exercise we’re doing.

“When I talk to clients about what they eat, first thing’s first. I never use the word diet – it’s a dirty word! People usually associate it with the short term, and have negative feelings towards it. You’d never hear someone say “I’m going on a diet for the rest of my life”.

When it comes to food, I believe you should never reward yourself with anything to do with food, you’re not a dog. And it’s the same with alcohol.”

According to Nixon, many Australians use alcohol to relax and unwind, but he says that people’s perceptions of alcohol are often just as powerful as consuming it.

“A lot of people like to ‘reward’ themselves with a drink after a hard day’s work. But most of the time they get that feeling before they’ve even taken a sip. It’s a placebo, they’re still holding the full glass or bottle in their hand. People use alcohol as a vehicle to deal with their emotions, stress and other negative stuff in their lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. They can change that habit.”

To test this theory and himself, in late 2011 Nixon decided to take a year off drinking alcohol. While he never considered his alcohol consumption to be particularly problematic, he thought it would give him the edge he needed to reach his goals, both professionally and personally.

“I made the decision to take 12 months off alcohol when I was coming into the second year of running my own business. After a friend’s birthday I realised that having a big weekend on the booze or a big night actually went against my values, what I stand for, and what my business is all about.

So I set myself a date that I could commit to, 1 January 2012 (I didn’t want to do it straight away) and said to myself ‘ok, no alcohol for a year from that day’. I set a target to raise money for Camp Quality and announced it publicly so it was a promise I had to keep.”

Nixon dedicated the first three months to training for a kickboxing fight, something he’d never done before. With an average weight of 79kg, he had to cut down to 66kg in order to complete.

His daily routine included 2-3 training sessions, working 14-15 hours on his business, and adhering to a strict nutrition regime. To really push the limits of his determination and will power during this period, Nixon also faced an emotional hurdle.

“I went through a breakup during the year, it was a significant relationship in my life. People would say to me “oh you need to get out and mingle”. But I didn’t want to run my emotions through the ‘alcohol vehicle’. I wanted to deal with it differently – and I chose my training and my business.”

This month he achieved another big personal goal, lifting three times his body weight in a local powerlifting competition.

Dave’s final lift at the competition – 225kg

I asked Nixon if he felt like he’d missed out on anything over the course of the last 11 months, and whether he has any regrets about his decision to go without.

“How did I feel? So much better than I would have if I chose alcohol! I’m now much more aware of people and read body language completely differently than I used to.

It’s really given me an opportunity to push my boundaries. I usually get up at 4am and work until 10pm, and then train a couple of times during the day. So it’s given me the chance to understand what I can achieve in a day, both physically and mentally.

To me, there has been nothing negative – physical, social or anything whatsoever from taking a year off.”

We may not all aspire to be a health coach, a kick boxer, or an entrepreneur, but perhaps if we’re to really understand our full potential, taking a break from booze might just give us the space we need to do it. Check out these Australian initiatives if you’re keen to give it a go:

This article was originally published on www.drinktank.org.au

No matter what country you live in, you’ve probably seen a mass media government campaign or two that focusses on ‘tackling youth binge drinking’. In Australia a recent and significant effort in this area was the Federal Government’s Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare campaign. I took a closer look at this $20 million effort to change young people’s attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol to see how it stood up against evidence-based strategies and successful social marketing initiatives from around the world.

Summary

 On 10 March 2008, the Australian Government announced a $53.5 million “National Binge Drinking Strategy” (the Strategy) that aimed to address risky alcohol consumption among young Australians. The Strategy comprised three components: a $14.4 million investment in community initiatives that focused on exploring the cultural and social aspects of binge drinking, including $2 million towards supporting the Club Champions program –  developing elite sports ambassadors to promote responsible drinking messages; $5.2 million towards supporting the Good Sports program – supporting local sporting clubs to promote responsible drinking messages; and $7.2 million towards a community based grants round – establishing partnerships between non-government organisations (NGOs), local governments, sporting groups, police, and other groups to develop local solutions to youth binge-drinking. The second component of the Strategy was a $19.1 million investment in early intervention programs that encourage young people to take on personal responsibility for their drinking behaviours, and the third component was a two-year, $20 million social marketing initiative entitled Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare, that sought to highlight the ‘costs and consequences’ of binge drinking for young people.

The focus of this report is the principle key element of the Strategy, the Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare campaign (the Campaign), which ran from 21 November 2008 to 30 June 2010.

Target audiences

The Campaign targeted two key groups:

  1. Primary target audience: teenagers aged 15-17, and young people between the ages of 18-25.
  2. Secondary target audience: parents of 13-17 year olds.

Objectives

The main objective of the Campaign was to “contribute, along with the range of existing education, policy and regulatory initiatives, to a reduction in harm associated with drinking to intoxication amongst young Australians.” (Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing [DoHA], 2008). In terms of alcohol-related harms, the Campaign focused on short-term or immediate harms such as injury or accidents, rather than the long-term impacts of heavy drinking such as chronic disease. Specifically, the Campaign aimed to:

  1. Raise awareness of the harms and costs associated with drinking to intoxication among young people.
  2. Increase perceptions of the possibility of personally experiencing a range of short-term negative outcomes from intoxication, as well as increasing personal perceptions of the seriousness of these outcomes.
  3. Deliver personally relevant messages to encourage, motivate and support the primary target groups to reconsider the acceptability of the harms and costs associated with drinking to intoxication, assess their own drinking behaviour, and make changes to their own behaviours where necessary.
  4. Deliver personally relevant messages to encourage, motivate and support parents of young people to examine their own attitudes and behaviour towards alcohol, talk to their children about alcohol and the consequences of drinking to intoxication, and to become role models for responsible alcohol consumption.

Delivery

The Campaign adopted a traditional social marketing approach, whereby ‘‘brand’’ merchandising techniques are used to sell or market social behaviour change in a similar fashion as product marketing. In brand marketing schemes, information about a product is transmitted with the goal of changing behaviour and increasing product consumption. Social marketing represents a variant of brand or commodity marketing, with the goal of persuasively changing behaviour through value or attitudinal change. Standard campaign applications of these ideas have typically relied on public service announcements (PSAs) and ancillary communication strategies, for example, television, radio, print media, and billboards to inform the public with a goal of changing beliefs, attitudes, and eventually behaviours (Scheier, Lawrence & Grenard, 2010).

The key message “Don’t turn a night out into a nightmare”, was delivered via a range of mass media channels, including, television commercials, cinema commercials, radio commercials, online advertising including a game entitled The Drinking Nightmare, out-of-home advertising, print media such as posters, brochures and postcards, and educational resources for parents and teachers including online fact sheets, and an interactive CD-ROM.

The television, print and out-of-home advertising follow a consistent approach in delivering the key message. Each piece of media depict two scenes, the first of a group of young people happily consuming alcohol, the second of a scene illustrating one of the negative short-term consequences of binge drinking. The situations, actors and consequences of each scene were chosen to ensure the maximum relevance for both genders and for younger and older drinkers within the 15-25 year age range. After conducting pre-campaign market research with the target groups, four pairs of scenes were used:

  1. ‘Party bushes’, in which a couple are photographed having sex at a party in the bushes, coupled with the statistic “one in two Australians aged 15–17 who get drunk will do something they regret” (designed for maximum relevance for females and 15–17 year-olds);
  2. ‘Pedestrian accident’, in which a male pedestrian is hit by a car, coupled with the statistic “four Australians under 25 die due to alcohol related injuries in an average week” (designed for maximum relevance for males and 15–17 year-olds);
  3. ‘Coffee table’, in which a female is injured by falling through a glass table, coupled with the statistic “on average, 1 in 4 hospitalisations of people aged 15–24 happen because of alcohol” (designed for maximum relevance for females and 18–25 year-olds); and
  4. ‘Pub fight’, in which two males exchange blows, coupled with the statistic “70 Australians under 25 will be hospitalised due to alcohol-caused assault in an average week” (designed for maximum relevance for males and 18–25 year-olds).

Two 60-second advertisements were used on television and in the cinema. The first, which featured ‘Party bushes’ and ‘Pedestrian accident’, was designed to appeal to the younger members of the target audience. The second featured ‘Coffee table’ and ‘Pub fight’ for maximum relevance to older members of the primary target audience. The online advertising featured a moving image of a beer glass being raised as if to the viewer’s mouth and one of the statistics mentioned above (Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute, 2009).

Risk issue definition

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 major types of disease and injury. These include liver cirrhosis, diabetes, road traffic accidents, several types of cancer, violence, and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (World Health Organization, 2011). The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (the Guidelines) state that alcohol-related risk comprises both the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime, and the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking (National Health and Medical Research Council [NHMRC], 2009).

Alcohol misuse results in substantial harms to Australians. Each week some 60 people die and a further 1500 are hospitalized because of their own alcohol consumption (Pascal, Chikritzhs & Jones, 2009). Not only does alcohol misuse impact on the drinker, it also imposes costs to the community, including healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity. In 2010, one in five Australians aged 14 years or over drank at levels that placed them at lifetime risk of alcohol-related disease or injury. This equates to 3.7 million Australians drinking at long-term risky levels, compared to 3.5 million Australians in 2007. In 2010, almost two in five Australians aged 14 years or over drank at levels that placed them at risk from short-term harm at least once in the previous 12 months. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of people drinking at risky levels monthly increased from 4.9 million to 5.2 million (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2011). From the period 1995-2005, 32,696 Australians aged 15 years and over died, and over 80,000 were hospitalized each year due to risky or high risk alcohol consumption (Pascal, Chikritzhs, & Jones, 2009).

In terms of Australia’s overall alcohol consumption, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) generates its estimates about the amount of alcohol consumed by Australians based on the amount of alcohol available for consumption in Australia in a single year. In 2009-2010, the estimate of alcohol consumption was 10.3 litres per person, which is equivalent to 2.3 standard drinks per day, per person aged 15 years and over. According to the ABS, this figure has remained relatively stable since the mid 1990’s (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

This report focuses on the Campaign’s attempt to reduce the occurrence of risky single occasions of drinking, or binge drinking, among young Australians.

Précis of previous research

There is surprisingly little research literature about the way that Australian news media treat the issue of binge drinking, or Australia’s ‘drinking culture’, despite the fact that it is a frequently reported issue. A 7-year snapshot of [1] mainstream Australian news media coverage referencing the term ‘binge drinking’ indicates that reporting of the issue has remained stable over this period, with around 1000 news items per year. However, from 2008-2009 coverage more than quadrupled, which is likely to be attributable to the launch of the Campaign (see Table 1 below):

Table 1

News articles referencing ‘binge drinking’ from 1 January 2005 – 1 January 2012

Year

Number of news items

2005

726

2006

622

2007

1186

2008

4866

2009

2889

2010

1314

2011

1304

While international analyses have examined the relationship between media framing of alcohol issues and youth binge drinking culture, little attention has been given to the way in which young people receive, interpret and react to dominant news frames. Studies in the United States have explored the role of parents, public health advocates, and news frames influence young people’s drinking behaviours (Askelson & Campo, 2009). However, this research largely ignores the social, political and cultural actors that shape the way that young people perceive alcohol. While research indicates that parental involvement is an important protective factor (Askelson & Campo, 2009), in isolation, the likelihood of media framing having a significant impact on parent’s attitudes towards managing their child’s alcohol use is arguably small. Further, the likelihood of college students changing their behaviours and attitudes towards drinking as a result of increased parental intervention is at best minimal, particularly for young people that live on campus, away from the family home.

A recent Australian study about the communications activities of alcohol industry-funded body, DrinkWise, demonstrates how journalistic practices routinely circulate a range of expert opinions and ideas without providing context, background or critique of each position. By presenting industry and health researchers’ voices on an even playing-field, expert opinion is devalued, and at times, health researchers’ criticisms of the alcohol industry appear to strengthen rather than undermine it’s communications efforts. This is demonstrated through the alcohol industry’s involvement in public policy, academic research, and news media, all of which contribute to legitimising its position within public discussions about alcohol consumption. While some publicity does not play immediately in the industry’s favour, the fact that it is engaged in discussions and debates provides an opportunity to maintain and reinforce political and economic structures that facilitate branding and consumption, while at the same time actively engage in brand-building activities in social and cultural environments (Carah & van Horen, 2011). A 2011 study of Australian news media’s treatment of the contested ‘alcopops tax’ on ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs) in 2008 supports the notion that the opinions of health advocates, experts and industry representatives are presented by media without providing any context or background for the audience (Fogarty & Chapman, 2011).

It is clear that further work needs to be done to establish an adequate understanding of the structural and societal factors that shape the way young Australians perceive alcohol, and the extent to which news media influences their attitudes and behaviours. Further, the use of social media as an effective channel for engaging at-risk young people to achieve attitudinal and behavioural change is yet to be explored.

Campaign analysis: Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare

The Campaign was highly ambitious in the sense that it relied on a mass media approach to achieve its proposed core objectives of increasing knowledge, influencing attitudes, and changing behaviours among the target population groups. International evidence on successful public health education campaigns on low-risk drinking levels show that mass media approaches can be effective in reaching a broad target audience. For example, Canada’s highly successful Born Free campaign about abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy involved disseminating information at the point of sale, as well as the promotion of key messages through television, radio, and print media (NHMRC, 2009). While mass media campaigns can reach a diverse cross-section of the population, they are less successful in engaging specific population groups when messages are generic, both in terms of framing and the medium by which they are delivered (van Gemert & Dietze, 2011).

How people behave is determined by many factors and is deeply embedded in social situations, institutional contexts and cultural norms. A non-targeted approach to communication may be particularly ineffective for some of the diverse cultural and demographic groups within Australia. Messages targeting Indigenous groups, for example, may be most effective if they are tailored specifically to them (recognising that Indigenous culture is also heterogenous). Other groups that may require specialised tailoring include recent migrants, the elderly and young people (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). In order to influence the attitudes and behaviours of young people who engage in risky drinking it is clear that a more targeted approach is necessary.

Age is one of the crucial considerations in the design of social marketing campaigns that aim to affect attitudinal and behavioural change in a population group. While the Campaign targeted young people from age 15 through to 25, and the parents of these young people, research shows that messaging and education about sensitive issues and risk-taking should begin at a much earlier age. According to the World Health Organisation, “the needs and developmental abilities of young people vary with their age; thus programmes must take these factors into account. This is commonly referred to as “developmentally appropriate programing.” For example, concepts in school curricula should be sequenced smoothly from primary levels to secondary levels to reinforce previous learning experiences and make links for new learning; this process is sometimes referred to as a “spiral curriculum.” For sensitive issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, education should begin as interest begins to increase but before the target group has become involved in risk-taking behaviours. The building blocks for dealing with such sensitive issues should be in place at the very beginning of children’s education. Such building blocks include self-esteem, positive values of cooperation and teamwork, the protection and promotion of health, and pro-social behaviour. However, to help young people develop positive behaviour and avoid risks, these topics must be taught in a way that is increasingly specific to actual situations in their lives.” Further, the pre-teen and early teen years are arguably the critical period in which drug influences by peers are most active and also reflect the formative years of identity formation when youth are most vulnerable to certain risk behaviours (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992).

It has become increasingly clear that governments cannot simply ‘deliver’ key policy outcomes to a disengaged and passive public. In the areas of welfare, health, crime, employment, education and the environment, achieving significant progress requires the active involvement and cooperation of citizens (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). Social media can be defined as a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Social media is playing an increasingly important role in the way that organisations, governments and individuals communicate. For governments, digital communication tools provide opportunities to influence the attitudes and behaviours of individuals and communities, particularly young people. An important aspect of effective social media use is communication strategies that are based on a dialogical paradigm. Successful social media strategies typically encompass the following criteria:

  1. Connectedness: regularly engaging in two-way conversations with target audiences.
  2. Meaningful participation: target audiences are actively participating in opportunities made available to them through social media outreach.
  3. Uptake of information: information and key messages are being accessed and used by target audiences.

While the Campaign utilised social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, the underlying communications strategy was focused on a broadcast or one-way paradigm. The Campaign’s social media profiles were merely used as communication stations for pushing messages and information to as broad an audience as possible, rather than tapping into the more powerful paradigm of dialogic communications. The profiles are clearly designed and governed by the Department of Health and Ageing, with little evidence of input from young people. Updates are restricted to the key Campaign messages such as “Going out this weekend? Don’t risk turning your night out into a nightmare. Know your limits and aim to stick to them. Avoid peer pressure and drinking more than you want to” and “Are you going out this Anzac day? To help keep track of how much you have had to drink, avoid top ups and finish your drink before you go for a refill.” Since the launch of the Campaign, parody Facebook pages have been created by young people, such as Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare – Plank Responsibly, which has 67,556 ’likes’ as opposed to the Government’s official page with 198,769 ‘likes’. The parody page was created by an individual with no broader marketing budget, which demonstrates the effectiveness of authentic messaging and the potential for some social media initiatives to spread ‘virally’. The parody page is still regularly updated, whereas the Government page has remained static since July 9, 2010. The effective use of social media was a missed opportunity, and one that should be explored in future youth-oriented social marketing campaigns.

The Government’s official evaluation of the Campaign consisted of an analysis of 4,363 online interviews in November 2008, and 4,200 in April 2009 with young people and parents of young people. The sample was then broken down into gender, location, cultural background, and level of alcohol consumption. While the results indicate that campaign messages were well-received and retained by the primary target audiences, there is less evidence to show that the Campaign had an impact on drinking behaviours. Further, while quantitative data is useful in terms of tracking trends and patterns in attitudes and behaviours, a qualitative methodology such as semi-structured interviewing or focus groups would be more useful in terms of gaining a deeper understanding of the attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of the target groups.

Implications for risk communication

It is questionable as to whether mass media campaigns are the most appropriate vehicle for engaging at-risk youth population groups. Alternative approaches include non-paternalistic, highly-targeted peer-based interventions, and the innovative use of social media to deliver key messages, information, and importantly, foster dialogic communication with young people (Gemert et al., 2011). Smaller-scale social marketing, such as tailored communication for individuals or small groups, is growing in popularity and has substantial applications using the Internet and handheld devices. However, tailored health communications is a new field and has not yet been widely applied to prevention and health promotion, and there is limited evidence of its effectiveness in these applications (Kreuter, Farrell, Olevitch & Brennan, 2000). Further research in this area is needed in order to establish an understanding of the effectiveness of these alternative approaches.

Research about the media reporting of the implementation of the Australian Government’s ‘Alcopops Tax’ suggests that effective communication about changes to alcohol policy needs to: clearly demonstrate the case for change, understand the arguments of opposing actors, ensure that evidence is readily available to support claims, and use case study examples to further illustrate arguments and add a dimension of authenticity to the frame (Fogarty & Chapman, 2011). However, given the nature of the risk communication environment it would be naïve to propose that positions of power in framing risk issues can be won and permanently held by a particular actor, regardless of the level of support for or salience of a frame at a particular point in time. It is perhaps more important for health advocates to acknowledge the complexities of the risk communication environment, and where possible, seek assistance from strategic communication experts to provide support in navigating and negotiating this tricky terrain.

A common communications approach of health researchers, policy-makers, and other experts is to challenge the credibility of organisations such as DrinkWise, as a legitimate player in the alcohol policy debate. This has often proved ineffective, as by acknowledging DrinkWise and shining a light on their messages, they are then intrinsically accepted as a key part of discussions. By battling the alcohol industry lobby, the focus is then removed from the alcohol ‘environment’, that is, the entertainment, cultural, media and marketing spaces in which the industry promotes and facilitates alcohol consumption. Instead, health experts should channel their efforts towards shaping the way in which public debates are framed, that is, the current media template about alcohol consumption. This proposal poses a significant challenge to the Australian health sector, as there is already a well-established framing of experts promoting ‘nanny state’ or ‘wowserish’ alcohol policy reforms, particularly when the focus is on the regulatory environment. In order for a shift in the current media template to take place, professional strategic communicators must lead the way in shaping conversations with the media, key political stakeholders and the alcohol industry (Carah & van Horen, 2011).

The Guidelines summarise the current evidence-base on risk levels associated with alcohol consumption for adults, young people, and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. The Guidelines have now been in place for three years, yet there has been no comprehensive education campaign to promote them (FARE, 2012). An evaluation of the limited promotional material regarding the Guidelines commissioned by DoHA astutely points out that “The guidelines will not engage the community nor influence attitudes towards the consumption of alcohol merely by virtue of their existence” (Horizon Research, 2011). While there have been a handful of short-term campaigns in the past two decades aimed at reducing the levels of harm associated with alcohol use among the Australian population, and young people in particular, none have proved successful in significantly changing drinking behaviours. While evaluations indicate that awareness of past campaign messages has been high, and the retention of these messages has been successfully obtained by target population groups, drinking behaviours have largely remained unchanged. With this in mind, it raises a serious question as to why the Australian Government chose to invest a further $20 million in the Campaign.

This review demonstrates that in order to significantly change young people’s attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol, a multipronged approach is needed. This includes ongoing public education and social marketing campaigns, as well as policy reform that addresses the environment in which alcohol is marketed, sold, and consumed. Future social marketing campaigns should take a long-term view, be well-resourced, adopt a dialogic communications paradigm, include both targeted and specific messages for different target audiences, and ideally take place within the context of population-wide alcohol policy reform.

References

Andrea, S. Fogarty and Simon Chapman (2011). Framing and the marginalisation of evidence in media reportage of policy debate about alcopops, Australia 2008-2009: implications for advocacy. Drug and Alcohol Review (30): 569-576

Askelson, N. M., S. Campo, et al. (2009). The Missing Role of Parents: A Content Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Parenting Practices and Communication Strategies for Addressing Binge Drinking. Communication Research Reports 26(1): 50-61.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Apparent Consumption of Alcohol, Australia, 2009-10.Canberra: ABS

Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.drinkingnightmare.gov.au/internet/drinkingnightmare/publishing.nsf/Content/about-the-campaign

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2011). 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=32212254712

Australian Public Service Commission. (2007). Changing behavior: A Public Policy Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications07/changingbehaviour.pdf

Carah, N. and van Horen. (2011). Drinkwise, enjoy responsibly: News frames, branding and alcohol. Media International Australia (141): 5-16

C. van Germert, P. Dietze, et al. (2011). The Australian national binge drinking campaign: campaign recognition among young people at a music festival who report risky drinking. BMC Public Health 11(1), 482-489

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education. (2012). 2012-2013 Pre-Budget Submission. Retrieved from http://www.fare.org.au/policy-advocacy/submissions/

Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, T. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 64–105.

Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute. (2009). National Binge Drinking Campaign – Evaluation Survey. Retrieved from the National Binge Drinking Campaign website http://www.drinkingnightmare.gov.au/internet/drinkingnightmare/publishing.nsf/Content/research-eval

Kaplan, Andreas M., Haenlein, Michael. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons 53(1): 59–68.

Kreuter M., Farrell D., Olevitch L., Brennan L. Tailored Health Messages: Customizing Communication with Computer Technology. (2000). Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia.

Pascal, R., Chikritzhs, T. & Jones, P. (2009). Trends in estimated alcohol attributable deaths and hospitalisations in Australia, 1996-2005. National Alcohol Indicators, Bulletin No.12. Perth: National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology.

Scheier, L. M. and J. L. Grenard (2010). Influence of a Nationwide Social Marketing Campaign on Adolescent Drug Use. Journal of Health Communication 15(3): 240-271.

World Health Organization. (2011). Global status report on alcohol and health.Geneva: World Health Organisation.

World Health Organisation (2001). Skills for Health, Skills-based health education including life skills: An important component of a Child-Friendly/Health-Promoting School. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/school_youth_health/en/


[1] Outlets include regional and metropolitan daily newspapers, 2GB radio, 3AW radio, and AAP news bulletins.

One of Her Canberra’s 15 Women to Watch in 2015

Her Canberra - 15 Women to Watch

Nominated for Mamamia’s Most Clickable Women of 2013

Let’s tweet!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 22 other followers

Flickr Photos

Simon Corbell MLA

Member for Molonglo | Attorney General | Minister for Police and Emergency Services | Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development |

SistaNative URBAN WORLD ROOTS

Orator - Songwoman - Oceania/Pacific

Groove Culture.

STREET DANCING in SYDNEY.

The Canberran

A snobby (though tongue-in-cheek) look at the finer sides of the National Capital. Got a tip? Email editor@thecanberran.com

alterMedium

a space for opinions about what's happening in government ICT

National Gallery of Australia's Blog

The National Gallery of Australia has the largest collection of art in Australia, owned by all Australians.

Bits and pieces

thoughts, ideas, pictures, quotes, reviews, whimsy

Producer Notes

Go behind the camera lens...

Mrs Langford's Weblog

Help for English Students

1 Million Women

a movement of mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers getting on with climate action

Stonetree Harm Reduction

Imagine how much sweeter the world would sound with a little more harm reduction

tengerifitness.wordpress.com/

tengeri natural fitness

Bobby Graham Publishers

making accessible digital content

Melanie James

Academic researcher, consultant and senior lecturer in strategic communication and PR

codenix | blog

Random jottings about Science, Society, Technology and Critical Thinking.

BJJ For Women

News, Events, Ideas and All Things Fenom

In The Taratory

Reviewing anything and everything the ACT and surrounds have to offer

CBRfoodie

Searching for affordable and tasty food in our nation's capital