Background: Problem alcohol use is an ongoing, worldwide phenomenon of considerable concern. Throughout the past 20 years, national policies have noted the importance of students when tackling alcohol consumption. Considering alcohol is a multifaceted issue, a multi-component response is required to combat its excessive use. This protocol sets out the approach used for developing, implementing and evaluating the REACT (Responding to Excessive Alcohol Consumption in Third-level) Programme.
Methods/design: This evaluation will provide the evidence base for programme development, implementation and improvement. Stage one involved defining the multi-component intervention. This was developed following a systematic review of existing literature and a Delphi-consensus workshop involving university students, staff and relevant stakeholders. Following this, the programme is being implemented across the Higher Education sector in Ireland. A number of Higher Education Institutes have declined the invitation to participate in the programme. These institutions will act as control sites. Each intervention site will have a steering committee whose membership will include a mix of students and academic and student service staff. This steering committee will report to the REACT research team on the implementation of mandatory and optional action points at local sites. An online cross-sectional study at baseline and two-years post intervention will be utilised to determine the impact of the REACT programme. The impact assessment will focus on (1) whether the intervention has reduced alcohol consumption among third-level students (2); whether the programme altered students attitudes toward alcohol and (3) whether the programme has decreased the second-hand effects associated with excessive consumption. Finally, qualitative research will focus on factors influencing the take-up and implementation of this programme as well as students' views on the initiative.
Discussion: Alcohol consumption has remained on the policy agenda at both national and international level over recent decades. Students are regularly among the highest alcohol consumers, yet university management and public policymakers struggle to tackle this burgeoning issue. The REACT Programme provides a structure to translate policy into practice for those seeking to reduce hazardous alcohol consumption and related harms among third-level students.