Creating resources on alcohol education

by James Pepler

Assistant Professor Marcella Ogenchuk RN PhD for the College of Nursing is uniquely positioned to tackle binge drinking and educational gaps in wellness for Saskatchewan youths.

Dr. Ogenchuk's research focuses on alcohol education and prevention programs focused on decreasing the use of alcohol and its harmful effects on youth.  She looked at four schools in Saskatchewan in order to assess teacher and student perception of alcohol education. The research further revealed that there was a large gap in the curriculum for grade 9 to grade 12 students, but particularly in grade 11 and 12 students, when it came to alcohol education.

In 2008 she received a $10,000 grant from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as a start-up fund to further her research in community development initiatives in alcohol education. "When we see that by grade eleven 85 per cent of the population are drinking and 45 per cent are binge drinking, we have a roll in that." The result of the grant produced a body of information and resources that were accessible by the schools through which she was working, and the school division.

Two years later, in 2010, Dr. Ogenchuk received a further $50,000 from RBC to evaluate the results the impact her resources made. She explains that youth in Saskatchewan "don't know what binge drinking is, what passing out is, or what blacking out is. We need to educate them on what that means.  It's alcohol poisoning, this is what you're doing to your body, and these are the risks you're taking." This new research initiative is an exciting opportunity for Dr. Ogenchuk to work with U of S students. "Part of the new integrated plan is to get students more involved in our research." Students from the colleges of education and nursing will aide in this research.

She indicates that there is still plenty of work to be done and has applied for a Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation grant to hire graduate and undergraduate students to work with high school students and develop an educational campaign. "In my research, the students stated that if you have someone a little bit older than high school students teaching them about alcohol, talking about the risks and the benefits of not drinking, they listen more effectively than they would their teachers."

When asked about the long-terms goals for her research and the impact on Saskatchewan youth, Dr. Ogenchuk says that, "Hopefully by providing accurate information, that students identified and evaluated, they can have more control over what they're learning, doing, and take that with them into adulthood."