As part of National Science Week, Jessica Li and Melanie Lovatt from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG) led a workshop titled ‘Binge Britain: are we drinking too much, and if we are, what do we do about it?’ in two schools on March 20th and 21st. Aiming to inspire students to consider careers in research, the workshop introduced students to the world of public health and was based on research carried out for the Alcohol Policy Interventions in Scotland and England (APISE) project, which aims to evaluate the impact of alcohol policy interventions by conducting a longitudinal survey, qualitative interviews and focus groups with policy stakeholders and the public.
Year 11 students from Ash Hill Academy in Hatfield, Doncaster and Year 10 students from Wingfield Academy in Rotherham learned about SARG’s research, before being divided into groups, where they were asked to discuss England’s relationship with alcohol, identify any social or health problems associated with alcohol and debate the pros and cons of different alcohol control policies. Example policies included minimum unit pricing, banning alcohol brands from sponsoring sport or music festivals, charging city centre pubs and clubs for the costs of policing and tidying the city centre, and making drunken people pay for any damage they cause or NHS medical treatment they receive.
Students were then asked to rank the policies from most effective to least effective, before feeding back to the rest of the groups. Interestingly, a number of students thought minimum unit pricing was one of the most effective polices while others debated whether banning alcohol advertising and increasing alcohol education in schools would be useful.
Jessica and Melanie then presented results from the APISE survey and focus groups, showing the level of support for each policy, and the extent to which they were considered to be effective, before highlighting why research is important, and the role it plays in policy making. The workshop ended with a Q&A session, where Jessica and Melanie answered questions from students about their work in SARG, and more generally about careers in research. The students enjoyed debating policies the UK Government had promoted in its 2012 Alcohol Strategy, and learning about research careers in social science and public health.