Development of a Web-based alcohol intervention for university students: Processes and challenges

WA Centre for Health Promotion Research, Curtin University, Perth, Australia.
Drug and Alcohol Review (Impact Factor: 1.55). 02/2009; 28(1):31-9. DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2008.00008.x
Source: PubMed


Despite growing evidence of the efficacy of electronic screening and brief interventions for reducing unhealthy alcohol use, there is no published work describing the development of such interventions. We describe the process of developing and implementing an electronic screening and brief intervention in a large university population.
Thematic analysis of seven focus groups, involving a total of 69 students, informed the content and design of THRIVE (Tertiary Health Research Intervention Via Email). Pilot testing was conducted through usability analysis with a further 16 students. A random sample of 13,000 undergraduates was invited to complete screening and hazardous drinkers were randomised to receive Web-based assessment and feedback or screening alone. Participants' use of THRIVE was examined through server log analysis and responses to questions on instrument design/usability during follow-up assessment 6 months later.
A total of 7237 students (56% of those invited) completed screening; 2435 (34%) screened positive for unhealthy drinking; 1251 were randomly assigned to receive the intervention; and 1184 served as controls. In total, 99% of participants found THRIVE easy to complete, 76% said it provided personally relevant information and 55% said they would recommend it to a friend with a drinking problem. Thirty per cent sought additional information on support services through the site.
Key design elements include ease of access (e.g. via an emailed hyperlink), length (<10 min), clear, non-judgmental language, personalised normative feedback and links to appropriate services. The study demonstrates the potential reach of a carefully implemented intervention in a high-risk, non-treatment-seeking population group.

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Available from: Alexandra McManus, Jan 23, 2015
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    • "There is some potential for distress with the subject of alcohol being raised for some participants, as may occur outside the research context. Extensive and detailed pilot work has been done in a range of earlier studies to refine the methods used, being vigilant for adverse reactions (Hallett et al. 2009). We have focused on the ethical concerns involved in infringing rights rather than causing harm to participants, partly due to the lack of obvious potential to engender significant harm and the absence of such data in feedback. "
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    • "In addition to the electronic personalized feedback, three pages offering facts about alcohol (for example, the health consequences of unhealthy alcohol consumption), tips for reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm and sources of support for drinking problems (for example, contact details for services available in the local health district) will be included. The time to complete the intervention and read the electronic personalized feedback is expected to be less than 10 minutes [37]. A copy of the electronic personalized feedback will be emailed or posted to participants who agree to this information being sent to them. "
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    • "Template analysis is a qualitative technique that lies between grounded theory and content analysis and begins with an inventory of a priori domains expected to be strongly relevant. For this study, a priori domains reflected the anonymity and individual features of DrinkCheck [33,41]. Emergent domains were those that emerged from the data as coding proceeded (e.g., those not identified a priori) and were extensively and iteratively reviewed with investigators. "
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