Page last updated: February 18, 2014

Expansion of alcohol education outreaches for schools in Nordic Regions

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.
Drinking context
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 - a group of parents and others who patrol the streets
to provide a calming influence and 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 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 learning Zone.

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.

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