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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
RESEARCH AND EVALUATION
The committee believes that rigorous research and evaluation is necessary to ensure that any national strategy is based on the most effective approaches.
Recommendation 12-8: All interventions, including media messages and education programs, whether funded by public or private sources, should be rigorously evaluated, and a portion of all federal grant funds for alcohol-related programs should be designated for evaluation.
To ensure that activities are adequately evaluated and that interventions are research based, the committee recommends that a specific standard portion, perhaps 15 percent, of grant funds be set aside for independent evaluations. Currently, the proportion set aside for evaluation varies from program to program. There is an obvious tension between the need for resources to fund services and the need for evaluation. Both SAMHSA and the Department of Education have demonstrated a commitment to funding research-based interventions. The committee believes that this interest, and the effectiveness of funded programs, would be enhanced by a standard evaluation expectation across all funded programs. Programs also need to be provided with tools for conducting research and evaluation.
Chapter 6 outlines the need for prototype development for the proposed adult media campaign. This research activity is a core component of the strategy outlined in this report. There are several other approaches discussed throughout this report that may have promise, but where the evidence is insufficient to make definitive recommendations. We therefore recommend several areas for continued research.
Youth Media Messages
As discussed in Chapter 10, careful research should be conducted to identify specific messages to use in a youth-oriented media campaign that would demonstrate the risks of alcohol use, especially of heavy drinking. In the short-term, this should include testing a serious prototype for a youth-focused campaign. For example, the research design might include funding one or more 2- to 4-year campaigns in geographically focused areas, with substantial resources both in message development and transmission and in careful evaluation. The appropriate message focus for such prototype campaigns would need to be researched, developed, and tested before launching the campaigns.