Study to Prevent Alcohol-Related Consequences (SPARC)


The Study to Prevent Alcohol-Related Consequences (SPARC) combines community organizing and environmental prevention strategies to address alcohol-related problems on college campuses and in surrounding communities.


  • To prepare campus and community members to change local practices and policies that promote high-risk drinking
  • To promote positive social norms around alcohol use on campuses and in surrounding communities
  • To reduce social and commercial access to alcohol among college students 

Typical Elements

  • A campus/community organizer who will be responsible for day-to-day coordination of prevention activities (Martin et al, 2012).
  • An on-campus accountability group to collaborate with the organizer and oversee the initiative. Activities can include providing funding, training, and technical assistance and monitoring prevention activities (Martin et al., 2012).
  • A campus/community coalition to collaborate with the organizer to assess prevention needs and develop and implement a strategic plan to address those needs. This coordinator (Martin et al., 2012): 
    • Conducts relational meetings (also known as “one-on-ones”) with local stakeholders based on their interest in the problem and the resources and skills they can contribute to the coalition.
      • Note: In the original implementation of SPARC, the median number of relational meetings per college site was 107 (Wolfson et al., 2012).
    • Recruits 10 to 30 members for the coalition, ensuring representation by faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders from the surrounding community.
  • An assessment of training needs of the on-campus accountability group and the campus/community coalition using methods such as focus groups or key informant interviews. Training should be available as needed, on general topics, such as community organizing and strategic planning, or on topics specific to selected prevention programs and strategies (Martin et al., 2012).
  • The collection and analysis of college-level data regarding risk factors related to high-risk drinking among students to identify one or more priority problem(s) (Wolfson et al., 2012). Consider using the College Alcohol Risk Assessment Guide. 
  • A strategic plan that includes environmental prevention strategies with demonstrated evidence of effectiveness in reducing high-risk drinking and its consequences among college students (Martin et al., 2012; Wolfson et al., 2012). Ideally, the plan should mandate the use of communication, enforcement, and policy strategies that address three out of four of the following:
  • The implementation of selected programs and strategies to reduce high-risk drinking and related consequences. Common strategies from the original study included (Wolfson et al., 2012):
    • Restricting provision of alcohol to underage or intoxicated students
    • Increasing and/or improving coordination between campus and community police
    • Restricting alcohol possession
    • Restricting alcohol use at campus events
    • Establishing consistent disciplinary actions associated with policy violations
    • Creating campaigns to correct misperceptions about alcohol use
    • Enhancing awareness of personal liability
    • Monitoring parties through, for example, party patrols
  • A sustainable coalition that continues leading effective prevention practices. For example (Wolfson et al., 2012):
    • Meeting with influential university officials to secure their support and additional funding.
    • Collaborating with local agencies to implement SPARC programs and strategies.


  • College students
  • Other community groups depending on selected programs and strategies


Compared to non-SPARC colleges/communities, those that participated in SPARC demonstrated  decreases in (Wolfson et al., 2012):

  • Severe consequences due to students’ own drinking
  • Students causing alcohol-related injuries to others

These decreases were larger in colleges/communities with higher doses (e.g., more thorough implementation) of the intervention (Wolfson et al., 2012).


College Alcohol Risk Assessment Guide: Environmental Approaches to Prevention (CARA), 2nd edition

Study to Prevent Alcohol-Related Consequences: Using a Community Organizing Approach to Implement Environmental Strategies In and Around the College Campus—An Intervention Manual


No recognition found for role of SPARC in preventing underage drinking and/or its consequences.


Martin, B. A., Sparks, M., Wagoner, K. G., Sutfin, E. L., Egan, K. L., Sparks, A., . . . & Wolfson, M. (2012). Study to prevent alcohol-related consequences: Using a community organizing approach to implement environmental strategies in and around the college campus—An intervention manual. Winston Salem, NC: Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy, Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest School of Medicine. Retrieved from

Wolfson, M., Champion, H., McCoy, T. P., Rhodes, S. D., Ip, E. H., Blocker, J. N., . . . & DuRant, R. H. (2012). Impact of a randomized campus/community trial to prevent high-risk drinking among college students. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(10), 1767–1778.