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Tackling student drinking within the drinking subculture of a university sports competition: a culture change approach

Robyn Ramsden (School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Delwyn Hewitt (Health Economics, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Joanne Williams (School of Health, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia) (School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Lee Emberton (Deakin University Student Association, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Catherine Bennett (School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 29 April 2021

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021

389

Abstract

Purpose

This paper explores the impact of a suite of alcohol culture change interventions implemented by Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. The interventions were designed to change the alcohol culture at a bi-annual nation-wide university multi-sport competition known as Uni Nationals. This study aims to understand the critical success factors of the alcohol culture change initiatives that were developed by the university and implemented as part of a broader set of institutional practices.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative research design utilised in-depth, semi-structured interviews with nine Uni Nationals student team leaders. In total, two group interviews and four individual interviews were conducted with student team leaders who participated in the Uni Nationals. The interview transcripts were coded and themed. The themes were further refined and interpreted into a narrative. A total of two transcripts were independently coded by the first two authors. Discordant coding was flagged and discussed until a consensus was achieved. The remaining interviews were coded by the first author and discussed with the second author to ensure consistency. A socio-ecological framework was used to understand perceived changes to alcohol culture.

Findings

Student leaders were aware of and felt supported by the university-wide approach to changing the culture of Uni Nationals. Overall, the qualitative study indicated that students were positive about the alcohol culture change interventions. The leadership training that engaged team leaders in interactive activities had the greatest impact. Student leaders found the targeted messages, mocktail events and Chef de Mission (CdM) less effective cultural change strategies. However, they helped to establish expectations of students in this setting where a heightened focus on sport was associated with higher alcohol consumption.

Originality/value

While there has been growing academic interest in exploring “drinking cultures”, there has been relatively little focus on alcohol culture of university students at sporting events. The paper contributes to addressing this gap by shedding light on the impact of a group of interventions on the drinking culture of the Uni Nationals subculture.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The Deakin University Alcohol Culture Change Project was supported by VicHealth as part of an Alcohol Culture Change Initiative based on the VicHealth Alcohol Cultures Framework (VicHealth 2019).

Citation

Ramsden, R., Hewitt, D., Williams, J., Emberton, L. and Bennett, C. (2021), "Tackling student drinking within the drinking subculture of a university sports competition: a culture change approach", Health Education, Vol. 121 No. 4, pp. 388-407. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-01-2021-0006

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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