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Release: Immediate

Grant continues effort to reduce high-risk drinking among college students

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Stepping Up Project, a coalition involving the University of Iowa and the Iowa City and Coralville communities, has won a five-year, $700,000 grant to continue its efforts to curb binge drinking by college students as well as the "second-hand" effects of binge drinking - the problems that binge drinkers cause for others.

The local coalition is one of six university/community coalitions participating in a national program, "A Matter of Degree: Reducing High-Risk Drinking Among College Students." The initiative is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J., the nation's largest health care philanthropy, and administered by the American Medical Association. Other participating coalitions are associated with the University of Vermont, the University of Colorado-Boulder; the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Delaware and Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.

The $700,000 planning and implementation grant awarded to the Stepping Up Project follows a year in which the University of Iowa was given a $60,000 developmental grant to establish a community coalition to plan a comprehensive effort to curb high-risk drinking.

As a result, last April UI President Mary Sue Coleman and Iowa City Mayor

Naomi Novick announced the appointment of the 41-member Stepping Up Project coalition, which includes UI administrators, staff and students, Iowa City and Coralville municipal leaders, county and school leaders, law enforcement officials, state legislators, and representatives of the business community, local substance abuse prevention agencies, civic organizations, and the community at-large.

This week, Coleman and Novick announced the appointment of Carolyn Cavitt as the chair of the Stepping Up Project. Cavitt is an Iowa City stockbroker with Dain Bosworth and a member of the board of directors of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Chamber of Commerce and the board of directors of the Iowa City Noon Rotary.

"On behalf of the Stepping Up Project, I'm pleased that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has rewarded our coalition-building efforts by awarding us this grant," Cavitt said. "We are fortunate to have assembled such a diverse and talented group of community people who are willing to address this problem. I'm sure the coalition will be looking to others in the community for additional ideas and help. The problem of excessive drinking affects all of us, so we're all going to have to be involved in proposing and implementing solutions."

President Coleman echoed Cavitt's comments.

"The generosity of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gives us that additional support we need to make major inroads into changing the social environment regarding the use and abuse of alcohol," she said. "The Stepping Up Project adds a new dimension to our efforts to combat alcohol abuse. Rather than focusing solely on educating students about the problems of alcohol abuse, we are going to work toward changing University and community policies so that we actively discourage binge drinking."

A major focus of the coalition will be on expanding the number and type of social activities that do not involve alcohol.

The Stepping Up Project will also focus on the students who suffer the second-hand effects of alcohol abuse, which range from the interruption of study and sleep to harassment and violence, said Dr. Mary Khowassah, director of the UI Student Health Service and coalition member.

Khowassah's office and Health Iowa, the educational branch of Student Health, wrote the original grant program for the Stepping Up Project. The grant proposal was supported by a number of community groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa City Council.