A very interesting conference was held in Tallinn,
Estonia in November to showcase the roll out of school alcohol education programmes across the Nordic and
Baltic regions in the past seven years. The inspiration
has been the Talk About Alcohol programme from
Sweden, which has now been translated and adapted
for Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. In each
country, the programme has been adapted for local
customs, laws and underage drinking trajectories for
young people. For example in Sweden (as in the UK)
more underage girls report drunkenness and going
to hospital for alcohol related incidents than boys.
In Estonia and Latvia, underage drinking is against
the law in all circumstances, whereas in the UK it is
a parental decision from the age of 5, although it is
illegal to be served or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone under the age of 18. It was invaluable to compare best practice and learn
from the innovative approaches being used.
Seven years of experience from Sweden
Per Hazelius runs a CSR strategy consulting company Kunskapskraft & Media in Stockholm, working with
social aspect organisations and companies to build social responsibility programmes and initiatives
in Europe. The company has been responsible for
the Swedish school programme Talk About Alcohol
since the start of 2006. The Swedish programme
is used in 75% of all secondary schools in Sweden.
Approximately 9,000 teachers and 450,000 students
have used the programme since it began. An
innovative part of the programme is the annual story writing competition. Over 6,000 students have
participated and the best stories are published in a
book, which is then given to the schools and to be
used as part of the teaching process. There is also a
short film competition.
58% of the boys and 65% of the girls in the age of 15-16 years in Sweden consume alcohol. (Defined
as drinking alcohol during the last 12 months).
Underlying trends show that fewer young people are consuming alcohol but, as in the UK, those who
do drink are consuming a lot. Importantly, more girls
than boys aged 15-16 years are drinking.
The programme has governmental endorsement
at a regional level all over Sweden, there is a
national partnership with The Swedish Transport
Administration and The Swedish National Agency for
Education. Partnerships include Nattvandring.nu - a
group of parents and others who patrol the streets
to provide a calming influence and Ungdomar.se
a youth web community who try to help influence
young people not to drink alcohol in their arena. The programme is hoping to undergo an in-depth
evaluation of its effectiveness beginning in 2014.
Implementing the Talk About Alcohol programme
in Estonia – research and training Iris Vahtra is project manager in the NGO that implements the Talk About Alcohol prevention
programme for youth in Estonia. Iris is MA in psychology and practices youth-oriented internet
counselling and social skills training for at risk youth.
The Swedish Talk About Alcohol programme was translated and adapted for local culture in Estonia
and piloted in 2012. 7 training seminars have now taken place across Estonia training 86 teachers and
specialists. The project is a partnership with The
Institute of Psychology in Tallinn. A pilot study found that the programme increased pupils’ knowledge about alcohol and their self reliance.
Vimsi school is the largest in Estonia and is trialing
the adapted seven lessons with 2 days of teacher
training. The project is being evaluated by the
Swedish - Estonian Mental Health and Suicidilogical
Institute among 450 students (half control and half
interventions). The project has encountered some
difficulties: In Estonia any alcohol consumption under
the age of 18 is against the law, so there is a denial
that those under age drink (whether in the home or
in a public place or private party). Teachers also tend
to be overloaded with too much to do. There is also
low motivation among teachers and large classes.
Adapting Talk About Alcohol in Latvia together
with teachers, parents and schools
Kristiana Pavlova is co-founder of the organisation
Go Beyond and responsible for Talk About Alcohol
in Lativa. The youth development programme “Go Beyond” which, in addition to developingundergraduates skills’, focuses on public health initiatives (reducing smoking and consumption of
alcohol among youngsters).
In Latvia 96% of 15-16 year-olds drink alcohol and
over 33% of them consume alcohol more than 3 times a month. More than 40% of Estonian adults
see ‘addictions’ as the most important issue for
school age children. 93% of teachers think that it is necessary to talk about alcohol, its effects on
body and situations that it creates among peers in the classroom. 64% of teachers point to a lack of
material about how to talk to young people about this subject.
In Latvia, Talk About Alcohol has a great advantage
in that the health effects of alcohol, tobacco and
drugs are covered in social sciences (Grade 1 – 9) a
part of the “Human’s and society’s development and
interrelations” topic, with 30 hours of curriculum
time. In addition, teachers have to undertake 36
hours of a professional level qualification’ courses
every 3 years in order to fulfil the criteria set by
law. Professional level courses can be organised
by educational institutions and have to be certified
by each municipality in which the course is carried
out. As such, Talk About Alcohol has been adapted
into an 18 hour professional level course on alcohol
education for teachers, which can contribute to their 36 hours of professional qualification courses. Within
the first year of roll out in 2013, 1/3 of the teachers
who have completed the course have found it
excellent, 1/3 feel they need support to deliver the
lessons and training and 1/3 say they cannot deliver
it in their school, saying they are too old, everyone
drinks here or that it is the parents responsibility.
Talk About Alcohol - the work of the Alcohol
Education Trust in secondary schools across the
UK, part 1 and part 2 - Helena Conibear, United Kingdom
Helena Conibear is Director of The Alcohol
Education Trust, a charity with a very specific remit,
the provision of alcohol education to 11- 18 yearolds
and their parents, through secondary schools
across the UK. Helena was the keynote speaker and
shared the experience of planning a well designed,
detailed and statistically significant evaluation of
alcohol education programmes. ‘Delivering is not
enough. It is fundamental to pilot a new alcohol
education programme and adapt it according to the
teachers’ ability to deliver the programme, fidelity to
the programme, students’ reaction to the materials,
time scale and local needs. Once these adaptations have been made, and the programme is in place in
a reasonable number of schools, an evaluation can
be planned. This is expensive and time consuming and an excellent independent Institution with an
international reputation must be chosen’.
Helena shared the Alcohol Education Trust’s journey
from 2011-2013, when its programme was evaluated
over 3 time points for 4,000 pupils aged 12-14, in
30 schools across England. (You can read the full
evaluation findings at alcoholeducationtrust.org/ pages/peer.html).
In addition Helena emphasised the importance
of partnership and local and national level and
highlighted the BAFTA winning films made for pupils
in secondary schools in cooperation with the BBC
Puhutaan alkoholista opettajille – Let’s talk about alcohol prevention with teachers in Finland
Susanna Heikkinen is the ombudsman of The
Association of Finnish Alcoholic Beverage Suppliers
(SAJK). SAJK has established a working group that
focuses on responsibility issues. This effective team is
the driving force of all their activities, including Let’s
Talk About Alcohol programme and their project on a
local website about responsible drinking.
Susanna is responsible for general management of
the association. Let’s Talk about Alcohol includes inclass exercises for students aged 13 - 17, and resources are characterised as follows:
The working formats stress student involvement and
informal group discussions.
The materials can be incorporated into a variety of
subjects, including Finnish language studies, social
studies, biology and health.
The teaching materials are compiled in a book seen
to all secondary schools in Finland that use Finnish as
the primary teaching language (780 schools).
The programme can be used in its entirety or tailored
from select parts.
Alcohol Dialogue in Denmark: Content, distribution and development of the programme
Anett Wiingaard, is General Manager at GODA, the
social aspects organisation that manages the Talk About Alcohol programme in Denmark. All schools in
the country are independently responsible for alcohol
education. Schools can rely on external partners such as associations, companies and authorities
and in 2008, two thirds of schools organised healthoriented
campaigns or theme days. There are tens
of associations that offer cooperation; examples
vary from full-scale material packages for classes,
guides for parents’ evenings, educational adventure
trails for pupils, a ‘drug bus’ that circulates over the
country providing ‘cool’ material, short movies and
videos, theatre, comic series, games, competitions
and quick polls at class etc.
6,922 copies of the Talk About Alcohol workbook
have been ordered by schools (1,500 schools = app.
4 copies each school). There is also a comprehensive
website Alcohol Dialogue, which will have an
expanded section on organising parent meetings
in schools and concrete tools to help teachers to
organise constructive meetings for development of
a dialogue with parents about setting up rules about
alcohol. Finally, the programme is being drawn to
the attention of the political system via a newsletter,
ministries, education, heath and social committees, as well as members of parliament and to municipal council men.
Drinking context in Denmark
Average alcohol consumption (100% alcohol) last drink episode is very heavy in Denmark, heading the
league across Europe:
boys - girls (
Denmark 10.6 cl 8.9 cl,
Finland 7.8 cl 7.2 cl,
Norway 7.6 cl 6.6 cl)
However, there are some trends moving in the right direction. Regarding alcohol consumption among young people aged 15-16 year old, between 2007
and 2011, the proportion of teenagers who drank at least 20 times in the previous year dropped from 50% to 37% in boys and from 35% to 28% in girls.
The share of boys who were drunk at least 10 times dropped from 21% to 17% (and 16 % to 11% for girls). The percentage of 15-16 year-olds who were not drunk in the past month increased from 49 % to 61% in boys and from 53% to 62% in girls.
The proportion of these teenagers who got drunk more than once or twice last month dropped from 24% to 12% among boys and from 16% to 7.5% among girls i.e The number of young people in Denmark who were drunk more than once or twice during the last month has gone down 50%. Approximately 50,000 children are born each year to a population of 5 million.