The Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST), from the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois presented interesting preliminary findings on the gender differences in consumption of alcohol by adolescents at a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development on Friday, 6 March 2015.
University of Michigan students, Christopher Ndubuizu and Chelsea Foo, led the study during 2 to 6 March 2015. They found that many female students reported to have consumed alcohol one year prior to the survey and that a smaller percentage of females reported having serious conversations regarding drug/alcohol use with parents. They concluded that in the third Secondary School Drug Prevalence Survey of 2013 there were notable differences in the way that males and females consume alcohol.
Several themes emerged from the preliminary study including a lack of awareness regarding adverse health effects of alcohol consumption; confusion about drinking laws and the legal age for this; gender differences in drinking preferences and where they drink; behavioural expressions of alcohol consumption in males versus females; and insufficient discussions about alcohol use.
The team advised of the need to create more public awareness about the effects of alcohol consumption as a public health preventative strategy to avoid chronic illnesses, among other things. They noted that the public looked mainly at the short-term effects of alcohol use, such as the behavior caused by intoxication, but were not very focused on the long-term effects such as chronic diseases or fetal alcohol syndrome.
Elvis Morain, Chief Education Officer (Ag), in addition to stating the Ministry’s satisfaction with the PHAST collaboration, said “… Dr Jeremiah and another student, would return to Grenada, to continue the formulation of the draft policy on alcohol. Yesterday, we received comments and amendments to the draft policy from Dr Tomo Kanda, Advisor, at the Regional Office of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). These comments and amendments would be incorporated into the draft document.”
As Morain stated in his presentation, PHAST has done significant work in Grenada in the area of health, including work with the Sickle Cell Association, projects in community health, including work with Spice Island Beach Resort and the Special Services Unit evaluation of their fitness club.
Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences, University of Illinois’ School of Public Health, Dr Rohan D. Jeremiah, MPH, Ph.D., said, “The emphasis is to really try to enable students provide practical expertise and opportunities to health departments and we’ve done that over the past couple years.” He also said that the students involved have been trained for at least a year or two, during their graduate studies, prior to their participation in PHAST.
Drug Control Officer, Mr Dave Alexander pointed out discrepancies in laws and regulations that deal with the age of consumption and other factors affecting drug control, which need to be addressed as it relates to adolescents’ access to alcohol in Grenada.
They conducted the study via conversations with secondary school students, including one all-boy, one all-girl and one co-ed school in both rural and urban environments and by varying the type and age range of groups of students interviewed.
PHAST is an interdisciplinary public health practice group that helps health departments and community organizations with short-term public health related projects. It is presently conducting studies on the relationship between alcohol consumption and gender (gendered expressions and justification of alcohol usage among adolescents and the possible linkages to sexual risk behavior patterns).