Small changes can lead to a big difference. That’s the mentality behind the Peer Health Advisers’ #OneLess Campaign. The event was held Thursday and aims to facilitate behavior change.
“We’re encouraging students to make personalized pledges to choose one less of something,” said Rachel Sholder, ’16, the president of the Peer Health Advisers. “Pledges can range from choosing #OneLess drink the next time you go out to #OneLess drinking game.”
There are several reasons to pledge #OneLess including to save money, improve grades, avoid empty calories and prevent hangovers.
“It isn’t realistic to ask college students to stop drinking,” said Peter Costa, the director of Health Advancement & Prevention Strategies and founder of the Peer Health Advisers. “Our goal isn’t to stop the behavior, but instead limit the negative consequences of drinking in a more relaxed way.”
The program started at Bentley University and was targeted toward moderate drinkers. Costa heard about it through a colleague. He thought it was a smart alcohol initiative that would fit in to upcoming Lehigh-Lafayette week since it is a high-risk time for drinking.
Courtney Stephens, the associate director of Residence Life, was close with colleagues who developed the #OneLess program at Bentley.
“During a meeting with Pete Costa, I mentioned the success of the #OneLess program at Bentley University, where I worked before starting at Lehigh this past August,” Stephens wrote in an email. “I personally think why this program can be successful is because it takes a realistic approach to drinking. While it certainly doesn’t condone underage drinking, it encourages everyone to consider drinking one less than they normally would which hopefully results in less issues during a night out.”
Research shows that most college students who choose to drink do so moderately. Moderate drinkers are the ones that experience the highest level of negative consequences from drinking, but usually don’t view their choices as risky.
#OneLess hopes to slightly alter students’ drinking habits, but isn’t only geared toward drinkers. It wants to attract all students because it is likely that during one’s Lehigh career, they will be affected by alcohol.
Students wrote their personalized pledge to aid in making positive change to Lehigh’s campus.
“I know it’s not such an easy fix,” Sholder said. “By doing this, people aren’t going to stop drinking, but this initiative was extremely timely. Lehigh-Lafayette week is a super high risk time. Hopefully the idea of one less will lead to less alcohol related problems.”
Peer Health is trying to send an important message to students. Lehigh students drink at a higher quantity, intensity, and frequency than undergraduates nationally.
“This is an important thing to note,” Costa said. “From collecting data, we know that compared to their national cohort, Lehigh students drink more alcohol at a higher intensity more often. Especially during Lehigh-Lafayette week, students are drinking more than usual. We hope to interrupt that even if it’s simply decreasing from six drinks to five.”
The initiative is campus wide and hopes to help decrease the number of alcohol induced issues over time. The event was co-sponsored by the Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, Residence Hall Association, EMS, Student Senate and the Student Athlete Council.
“We’re excited to be a part of the initiative to encourage an increased level of safety and mindfulness for all students,” said Halli Sigel, ’16, the vice president of External Recruitment for Panhellenic. “It’s a great collaboration to have.”
All Peer Health Advisers took part in the event’s activities, including tabling where students could make their pledges, Happy Hour presentations where students could find out information from the Red Watch Band program and a Lehigh After Dark event, De-Stress After Dark.
#OneLess hopes to create a message that students will listen to. Their goal is not to make students feel defensive about their drinking habits.
“We’re trying it to see if the messaging works with our students,” Costa said. “What’s really cool is that Lehigh collects a lot of safety data that allows for students to tell us different behavioral strategies they use, and hopefully #OneLess becomes one of them.”
By leveraging protective behavioral strategies and giving students a specific message, Peer Health plans on implementing positive change.
“Our overall hope is that #OneLess becomes a Lehigh initiative, not just a Peer Health initiative,” Sholder said. “We hope organizations campus-wide continue on with this mission.”