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J Stud Alcohol Suppl. 2002 Mar;(14):226-40.

Comprehensive community interventions to promote health: implications for college-age drinking problems.

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Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, School of Public Health, Boston University, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



This article reviews comprehensive community interventions that sought to reduce (1) cardiovascular disease risks; (2) smoking; (3) alcohol use disorders, alcohol-related injury and illicit drug use; or (4) sexual risk taking that could lead to HIV infection, sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.


Comprehensive community programs typically involve multiple city government agencies as well as private citizens and organizations and use multiple intervention strategies such as school-based and public education programs, media advocacy, community organizing, environmental policy changes and heightened enforcement of existing policies. This review focused on English-language papers published over the past several decades.


Some programs in each of the four problem areas achieved their behavioral and health goals. The most consistent benefits were found in programs targeting behaviors with immediate health consequences such as alcohol misuse or sexual risk taking. Results were less consistent when consequences of targeted behaviors were more distant in time such as cardiovascular risks and smoking. Also, programs that targeted youth to prevent them from starting new health-compromising behaviors tended to be more successful than programs aimed at modifying preexisting habits among adults. Programs that combined environmental and institutional policy change with theory-based education programs were the most likely to be successful. Finally, programs tailored to local conditions by the communities themselves tended to achieve more behavior change than programs imported from the outside.


Comprehensive community intervention approaches may have considerable potential to reduce college-age drinking problems, especially given the success of these programs in reducing alcohol-related problems and in preventing health-compromising behaviors among youth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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