Who’s the expert?

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After years of working in the Alcohol and Other Drugs Sector, we at NTEIPP (Northern Territory Early Intervention Pilot Program) are continually asking if information resources such as pamphlets, pocket info cards, helpline fridge magnets, etc, ever really hit the mark.  Given that young people are the experts, and we know that they are not always consulted, we were excited to be given the opportunity to gain an understanding of what young people really think about such resources by attending the Ychange? Youth Forum on Alcohol and Binge Drinking.

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On Friday 13th September 2013, we were greeted with 99 eager faces, keen to express their views and through valued consultation be given a voice.  With attendees from all across the NT (Darwin, Palmerston, Nhulunbuy, Katherine and Alice Springs), aged between 12 and 25, we were able to gather a wide range of ideas and opinions.

The young people worked in small groups to discuss their ideas about a collection of resource materials providing youth targeted alcohol and binge drinking information.  The resources in front of them sparked in-depth conversations and lively debate about the pros and cons of different ways that services provide information about alcohol and binge drinking.  These thoughts were then collected and analysed to show what you, as young people, think is effective and what you would ideally like to see produced in the future.

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From the survey data collected, we found out that 87% had drunk alcohol on more than one occasion, yet it was interesting to note that only 35% had ever sought information about alcohol or binge drinking.  82% claimed the internet would be their first stop for information as it was ‘quick and easy’ and gave ‘more information’ than other types of resource materials.

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The main things that seemed to resonate with the young people at the Ychange? Forum is the inclusion of statistics, making it easy to read, using pictures, being an activity, having something portable and having a strong, clear message.  Although slogans and branded messaging, were popular, merchandise and other promotional type materials (such as hats, pens and sunglasses, etc) seem to have little appeal for this demographic.  Instead, the views expressed indicated that easily accessible factual information was much more important.

The types of information participants most seemed to want is:
-   what a standard drink is
-    being able to identify alcohol content in certain beverages
-   facts and figures about alcohol effects and impacts on young people
-   information about alcohol harms
-    inclusion of helpful contact numbers

Young people know what works best for them and want materials and resources that treat them as intelligent individuals so that they can make better informed decisions for themselves. If we want young people to drink responsibly, should we not give them the tools to do so?

We thank all of the Ychange? Forum participants for their valuable feedback and every young Territorian who has spoken to us over the last three years.  This information has been shared with service providers and policy makers in the hopes that they will continue to engage with you in consultation and develop resources which will better meet the needs of young Territorians.

We would love to know what YOU think!  What sort of informative resources have you found helpful, what form do they take, what would you like to see produced in the future?

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NTEIPP, after three and a half year of working with young people around alcohol and binge drinking, is closing its doors.  We have shared many positive stories and messages and are lucky to have had the opportunity to use the views and opinions of young Territorians to shape our program, our messages and our resources.  We would like to leave you with one final message: Take Control, Limit the Alcohol.

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This article was written by Guest Blogger

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