November 22, 2011

First-year alcohol-related ER visits remain low

Two years after a record-high number of first-year admissions to the ER prompted administrators to institute an alcohol education program, the incident rate for the Class of 2015 has so far matched the low levels of last year’s incoming class.

First-years were involved in five of seven total alcohol-related trips to the ER this quarter, compared with three of eight visits by this time last year, according to Associate Dean of Students Marianne West.

The increased number of first- year visits is not high enough to draw concern, West said. She added that the U of C’s peer institutions generally have a significantly higher number of alcohol-related ER visits.

Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Counseling Alex Lickerman (M.D. ’92), who oversees the AlcoholEdu program, said that it is difficult to determine if the increase is statistically significant.

The entire class of 2015 completed the mandatory first part of the program this year, and 85 percent have completed the voluntary second part of the program, according to Director of Health Promotion and Wellness Kelly Hogan Stewart, who co-manages the program with Lickerman. These figures are nearly identical to last year’s.

In January, the University will receive data analysis compiled by AlcoholEdu’s developer, Outside the Classroom, which will be used to gauge the effectiveness of the online course. Stewart, Lickerman, and West said that they were looking for more educational tools to widen the range of alcohol information available to students.

Stewart said that one way she hopes to shift social drinking norms in the University community is to work with higher risk groups, such as the Greek life community and sports teams.

The AlcoholEdu program costs approximately $20,000 to operate, but Lickerman said he felt that it was a worthwhile investment.

However, first-year Kayla Hammond questioned the value of the program.

“One of the things [the program] kept trying to say was that alcohol wasn’t a big problem, and if that was the case, I wondered why [AlcoholEdu] even existed,” Hammond said.

The AlcoholEdu program was instituted in response to an all-time high number of 23 alcohol-related ER visits by first-years during the 2009–2010 school year.