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Lehigh’s AMOD program gets recognition from the AMA

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, left, receives the award from the American Medical Association's Don Zeigler.

Lehigh University recently received an award from the American Medical Association (AMA) in recognition of its “A Matter of Degree” (AMOD) program that works to curb high risk drinking and its second hand effects.

The award, presented by Don Zeigler, deputy director of the AMOD program for the Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse at the AMA recognizes the nine year efforts of Lehigh’s program to foster a healthier, safer living and learning environment by reducing the frequency of alcohol abuse and its attendant consequences. The city of Bethlehem was also given an award in recognition of their partnership with the program.

“Lehigh and the City of Bethlehem worked enthusiastically and methodically to change the culture and policies that fostered high risk drinking,” says Zeigler. “Together, Lehigh and the Bethlehem community have developed a working relationship and an understanding about alcohol as a joint problem which should allow them to more easily address policy change in the future.”

Gregory Farrington, Lehigh President, accepted the award on behalf of the university. “It is an honor to receive this award from the American Medical Association,” said Farrington. “As we all know, the abuse of alcohol by college students is neither new nor unique to Lehigh. It is a national issue and here at Lehigh we have been proactive in addressing this problem; it’s wonderful to be recognized for our efforts.”

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan praised the ongoing relationship and said, “By working with Lehigh University to decrease the amount of high risk drinking on campus we have clearly improved the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding the University. We have also created a much safer environment for those both on and off campus.”

Tackling the tough issues

John Smeaton, vice-provost for Student Affairs (left), Lehigh President Greg Farrington and Don Zeigler of the AMA discuss the AMOD program successes.

In 1996, Lehigh became one of six universities nationwide selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to receive a five-year grant to build a campus-community coalition to curb high risk drinking and its second hand effects. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Lehigh’s AMOD program was conducted in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Medical Association. In September 2001, based on demonstrated success, Lehigh received a four-year grant renewal to continue support of the program.

“The Foundation staff is very proud of the commitment and hard work that Lehigh University and the Bethlehem community put forward to address this critical public health issue,” said Dwayne Proctor, senior communications office at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Their efforts show that communities and universities can come together and tackle the tough issues, such as college student binge drinking. And when they do, together they can make a real difference in the lives of their students."

Lehigh gained national recognition in 2001 when the U. S. Department of Education named Lehigh’s AMOD effort one of six model programs for College and University Alcohol Prevention. And in 2003, the American Public Health Association awarded the College Based Leadership Award for alcohol prevention programs to John Smeaton, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, hailing Lehigh’s AMOD program as a model for the nation.

“Lehigh has created a great infrastructure, as well as relationships with the surrounding communities, to serve its ongoing efforts, said Elissa Weitzman, Sc.d, M.Sc., director of the AMOD program evaluation, Harvard School of Public Health. “Creating lasting change takes time, and Lehigh has assumed a leadership position nationally with respect to high risk drinking. Lehigh’s leadership and credibility will help guide the field.”

Lehigh’s AMOD program has resulted in a 53.6% reduction in underage students getting alcohol in bars without showing identification from 1997 to 2004. In addition, Lehigh achieved a 41% decrease in the number of campus crime reports, as well as significant reductions in alcohol-related problems during that same time period such as:

• Not using protection when having sex down by 35.4%
• Do something one regrets down by 26.6%
• Engage in unplanned sexual activity down by 25.7%
• Miss a class down by 25.1%
• Getting hurt or injured down by 24.6%
• Get behind in school work down by 17.8%
• Had a hangover down by 9.0%

Lehigh has also reduced the following alcohol-related problems caused by others such as:
• Experienced an unwanted sexual advance down by 32.2%
• Been insulted or humiliated down by 14.1%
• Had studying or sleep interrupted down by 9.6%

According to Smeaton, support from the Lehigh Parent’s Committee, the City of Bethlehem, the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, community leaders and merchants, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education were integral for program success.

Building on success

Lehigh's award recognizing its AMOD program.

Charles Shotmeyer, chair of Lehigh’s Parent’s Committee said, “The Parent’s Committee believes in the AMOD program because we have seen the results over the years. It’s very important for Lehigh to continue the work and build upon these successful results.”

Smeaton added, “Since the beginning of the project, the city of Bethlehem has also been an instrumental partner in developing the proposal for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, implementing the program, and continuing the collaborative work today and beyond.”

Lehigh’s AMOD efforts were further advanced through the support of the leading health advocacy organization in the Lehigh Valley, the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, one of the earliest partners that provided matching funds in 1998, that helped to fund initiatives such as a community liaison program and enforcement activities. The DRPHCT remains an active partner with Lehigh through a major effort focused on the prevention of sexual violence on college campuses.

“The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust is proud of the ongoing relationship that it has with Lehigh University through a number of different initiatives,” said Ron Dendas, program officer for the DRPHCT. “Through the AMOD program, the sexual violence prevention program and many more, we have been able to actively partner with the university to improve the health and wellness of the Lehigh community.”

While the Celebration of Success marks the end of the RWJF grant, said Smeaton, there is still much work to be done. Future initiatives that Lehigh will focus on include: provide AlcoholEdu – a science-based, on-line learning experience that provides effective alcohol education to all incoming students; increase support for First Year Orientation and assist with year-long programming; increase late night programming and offerings, and secure ongoing support for AMOD efforts.

--Sarah Cooke

Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005

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