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University of Arizona

29% Reduction over 3 Years

The University of Arizona (UA) is a public land grant university with 34,000 students. In 1995, the office of Health Promotion and Preventive Services (HPPS) in UA's Campus Health Service sought to reduce its campus rate of heavy episodic alcohol consumption which, at 43%, was on a par with campus rates reported nationally. To this end, a combined social norms and environmental management approach was adopted. As a result, the rate of heavy drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks at a sitting in the last two weeks) decreased by 29 percent at UA, from 43 percent of undergraduates in 1995 to 31 percent in 1998.

Project Funding Sources

Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) High-Risk Youth Demonstration grant; Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPE) grant; Department of Education grants (2).

Project Objectives

  1. "To advertise the norms around alcohol use on the university's campus and thus change existing misperceptions."
  2. "To support those norms with information about lesser known or understood facts related to alcohol safety."
  3. "To change public conversation about alcohol use among UA students, staff, administration and the community."

Baseline Data

Baseline data revealed that UA students overestimated the amount of alcohol their peers were consuming, and that the actual drinking norm was much lower than what students perceived.

Sample Normative Messages

(Click on any message in order to view that particular piece of media.)

Here are some sample media with normative messages from the University of Arizona's Social Norms Media Campaign.

Samples from the 2001-2002 school year include:

Here are several ads placed during the 2000-2001 school year:

Here is a sexual health poster designed for freshmen. It was posted in all residence halls and at the Campus Health Center:

Here are examples of media from previous years of the campaign:

Marketing Methods Employed

The media used to ensure the target populations' regular and frequent exposure to the normative messages included: campus newspaper advertisements, posters, bulletin board displays and newsletters. Additional media employed included campus shuttles, bumper stickers, magnets, mouse pads and screen savers. Evaluation


  1. Three separate quantitative survey instruments were used:The Core Alcohol and Drug Survey, administered through random mailings to 1500 undergraduates.
  2. A program-specific instrument, sent via campus mail to all students living in residence halls or Greek houses.
  3. An annual Campus Health and Wellness Survey, administered in classrooms (randomly selected since 1998).

These instruments were augmented with qualitative evaluation methods, e.g., interviews with stakeholders, focus groups with students, and analysis of secondary data sources.

Project Results

Among the UA findings:

  • The rate of heavy drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks at a sitting in the last two weeks) decreased by 29 percent at UA, from 43 percent of undergraduates in 1995 to 31 percent in 1998.
  • Negative consequences as reported on the Core Survey decreased significantly from 1995-1998.
  • As reported on the Annual Campus Health and Wellness Survey, there was a significant increase in the percent of students who believe their peers have 4 or fewer drinks when they party.

Project Director

This project was originally directed by Koreen Johannessen, M.S.W., who is currently Senior Advisor for Prevention for the Campus Health Service at the University of Arizona.
Email: Koreen Johannessen

The project is currently directed by:
Carolyn Collins, M.S.
Director, Health Promotion and Preventive Services
Campus Health Service
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Tel 520.621.5700

Further Information

See the University of Arizona's publication "A Practical Guide to Alcohol Abuse Prevention: A Campus Case Study Implementing Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches." Contents include a discussion of the theoretical bases underlying UA's intervention, the application of the social norms and environmental approaches at UA, measurement and evaluation, cost of print media social norms campaign, and a bibliography. Sample materials from the UA intervention are also available here, including: ads and posters, surveys utilized, and model consent forms.

Johannessen, K. and P. Glider, "The University of Arizona's Campus Health Social Norms Media Campaign," (2003) in The Social Norms Approach to Preventing School and College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians, Ed. H. Wesley Perkins. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

**Portions of the information presented on this page were originally prepared by Michael Haines and Richard Rice and are printed here with their permission.