10:01pm Sunday 19 January 2020

University of Western Ontario students go online to check effects of drinking

While these are important reflective questions for people of any age, they are questions that students at The University of Western Ontario are being encouraged to answer anonymously using a new on-line program that helps students assess the impact of their drinking.
The tool, called Check Your Drinking University (CYD-U), was developed by Evolution Health Systems,  a company that develops and manages community-based interactive behavioural eHealth and disease management programs.
A version of the tool (http://uwo.checkyourdrinkingu.net) was developed especially for Western, by Evolution with support from John Cunningham, a senior researcher with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Cunningham’s focus is addiction prevention.
A recent study by CAMH, and published in Addiction, shows that online tools such as these can help change drinking behaviours and Western officials are hoping it will be a good tool to promote responsible use of alcohol by students.
The tool calculates the annual amount spent on alcohol, the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per year, extra calories consumed from drinking and graphically illustrates the student’s consumption patterns.
Jennifer Ashenden, Assistant Director of Residences at Western, says promoting responsible use of alcohol by students is a priority.  
“We have education and awareness programs, alcohol policies, and we provide lots of opportunities for ‘dry’ events, including all Orientation Week activities,” says Ashenden.
“We know the best steps are those that help students make the right choices themselves, and help them understand the implications of their choices. That’s the goal of the Evolution tool.”
To date at Western, the tool has mainly been used in an Alcohol Awareness Program designed for students who been identified as exhibiting  drinking habits that could be problematic, but Ashenden says it will likely have broader use in the future.
Trevor van Mierlo, Evolution Health’s Chief Executive Officer, is a Western alumnus (BA Hons, ’96) who understands the importance of his company’s tool.
“Like many other students, during my time at Western I was fortunate and learned to draw the line between having fun, focusing on my coursework and being responsible with my finances,” says van Mierlo. “However, for many students there is tremendous peer pressure, and because there is a stigma associated with recognizing alcohol problems, many students are reluctant to voice their concerns. CYD-U is completely anonymous and accessible from any computer, so students can come to their own conclusions.”
A CAMH Canadian Campus Survey conducted in 2004 found that 32 per cent of Canadian students displayed patterns of hazardous or harmful drinking (5+ drinks for men and 4+ drinks for women).
Approximately 95 per cent of Ontario university students reported drinking alcohol in the past year, and almost 30 per cent report drinking more than 15 drinks per week. It has been found that this type of harmful drinking is often accompanied by educational difficulties, psychosocial problems, antisocial behaviors, injuries, overdoses, high-risk sexual behaviors, and other risk taking, such as alcohol impaired driving.

Rachel Fournier, VP, Evolution Health Systems Inc. 416-644-8476 x222, Rachel.Fournier@v-cc.com
Ann Hutchison, Director, Media Relations at Western, 519-661-2111 x85468, ahutch2@uwo.ca

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