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Posted: 10 April 2006

Diageo announces €1.5 million sponsorship to UCD Geary Institute for major study into drinking behaviour

Details of a major research programme exploring health-related behaviours, particularly excessive alcohol consumption, were announced on 6 April 2006. Using innovative methodologies, the UCD research is investigating how people process risk and how this impacts on their subsequent behaviour. The knowledge gained through the research may be used to influence policy and practice. The specific approach developed for this study creates the capacity for ongoing expertise on risk and behaviour in other areas aside from alcohol consumption.

Professor Colm Harmon of the UCD School of Economics and Professor Patrick Wall of the UCD School of Public Health and Population Sciences will lead the UCD Geary Institute research programme. Funding of €1.5 million towards the cost of this research project has been received from Diageo Ireland PLC.

“Taking the example of alcohol, which has a unique position in Irish society, there is no doubt that it is abused by subsets of the population” says Professor Patrick Wall. “However while the old adage is that “our health is our greatest asset”, health investment involves more than building hospitals. It involves changing behaviour and changing perceptions of risk.” According to Professor Wall “while people worry about telephone masts, incinerators, bird flu and the like they appear much less concerned about the risk of diet related disease and unhealthy alcohol consumption patterns.”

The research is being conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the RAND Corporation in California and draws heavily from the pioneering work of RAND and CENTER in Tilburg on the use of computer-based survey research methodologies. The UCD team is developing interactive web based surveys which enable instant data entry and instantaneous analyses and are exploring the use of mobile phones as data capture devices to improve response rates, accuracy and timeliness of data.

“This research will provide needed insights into the motivations, the ‘why,’ in alcohol misuse by young adults and will enable the development of more effective science based interventions to target this problem,” said Michael Patten, Group Corporate Relations Director, Diageo Ireland.

Through wide dissemination and publication of their findings – to their academic peers, to the policy community and beyond – the research team will provide useful scientific evidence on this important topic, informing policy decisions and specific intervention responses.

In keeping with international best practices, this research programme is conducted via a strict ethical agreement and the company is precluded from influencing research design, research methods and research outputs and the company does not see the findings in advance of publication. These long-established ethical procedures ensure independence and transparency. This health behaviour study on alcohol misuse in young people will be published and scrutinised by academic peers internationally and will be open to wider audiences to read, consider and consult.

“We place considerable focus on how individuals make decisions surrounding alcohol and other risk behaviours and how we can model these decisions” says Professor Colm Harmon, Director of the UCD Geary Institute and co-investigator on the study. “The approach adopted in this study represents a substantial advance in the study of health risk behaviours, one that can contribute to evidence-based policy making and the debate on health behaviours among young adults generally.”

This initiative further builds on Diageo’s funding of research programmes at UCD. Diageo has funded researchers in the prestigious UCD Newman Scholars programme; including a former scholar in politics and a current scholar in the UCD Centre for Food Safety who is looking at the detection of contaminants in Milk Powder.

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