Alcohol health literacy in school aged children – how to test what they know

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend

Kathryn is the programme manager for the University of Southampton's innovative LifeLab initiative which aims to promote scientific basis of lifelong health in school children and their families. She previously had a successful career as a research scientist and following a period of retraining and working as a secondary school teacher has consolidated her interest in science, scientific education and scientific literacy. She has developed an understanding of the importance of effective and stimulating science education from an early age, so that school children develop their powers of scientific thinking and have some insight into the broader scientific context in which the national curriculum for science is situated.


Alcohol health literacy in school aged children – how to test what they know


Alcohol health literacy in school aged children- how to test what they know

Kathryn Woods-Townsend1,2,3, Julia Sinclair4 and  Marcus Grace1

1 Southampton Education School, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Southampton , 2 Human Development and Health Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, 3 NIHR Southampton Nutrition Biomedical Research Centre, 4 Psychiatry, Clinical and Experimental Sciences Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

Corresponding Author:

Kathryn Woods-Townsend

Southampton Education School

B32, rm 2093

Highfield

University of Southampton

SO17 1BJ

k.woods-townsend@southampton.ac.uk

No conflict of interest

Aims

A feasibility study to i) define and measure baseline aspects of ‘alcohol health literacy’ among school children, and ii) use this data to begin developing a personalised computer-based teaching activity which raises students’ awareness of their response to  alcohol related cues.

Design/ Setting/ Participants

LifeLab is an innovative educational intervention being piloted in Southampton. It is designed to enable 11-16 year old students to discover first hand, how their lifestyles lay the foundations for a healthier life. This was a cross sectional study consisting of a survey and simple computerised task in school aged children in years 8, 9 and 10 integrated into the LifeLab setting. We developed an iPad app to test accuracy and speed of recognition of 20 common brands (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). All students also completed a brief questionnaire asking about knowledge of alcohol related harms, relative strengths of alcoholic drinks and exposure to alcohol use with family and peer group

Findings and Conclusions

256 students took part in the feasibility study from 6 different schools with mixed socio economic backgrounds. Usable responses were obtained for 238 questionnaire responses and 197 brand recognition responses. Liver (62%), brain (30%) and heart (28%) damage were the most commonly cited causes of alcohol harm as a free text response. Only 7% of students correctly identified the relative strengths whiskey/ wine or beer, the majority (70%) assuming that the single shot of whiskey had more alcohol in than the glass of wine or beer. Students own self reported drinking frequency correlated strongly (Pearson 0.332; p<0.001) with that of their peers, but not their family. Students engaged well with the brand recognition app, and of the alcoholic brands were most likely to correctly identify Fosters beer (93.9%) and WKD (73%). The study demonstrates a good face validity to students as a way of measuring alcohol health literacy.