Cell phones may offer help for problem drinkers in college

cell-phonePULLMAN, Wash. – Help for college students facing challenges with alcohol may be as close as their cell phone. Porismita Borah of Washington State University has received a pilot grant to see how mobile technologies can help encourage safer behavior.

“The novelty of our approach lies in utilizing mobile devices to offer information in real time,” said Borah, an assistant professor in WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. “The data can be used to design fine-grained messages to instantly address potential warning signs.”

Using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) through mobile technology developed in the Murrow College, real-time assessments of health behaviors and related experiences are possible. A combination of this mobile technology with mobile interventions can be applied for various health outcomes.

“We know that people rarely drink alone,” said Prabu David, associate dean in the college who helped develop the mobile application. “Are students drinking with friends? Are they out in public? Are they alone? How many drinks have they had late on a Friday evening? These answers can provide insights for designing personalized intervention messages.”

The reach of the technology is broader than at-risk students. Individuals can configure the program to send a motivational message created by themselves, a family member or a friend. For example, a message from a friend or confidante could be triggered when a person has violated a predetermined behavior, such as having stayed at a bar too long.

“This can help students by drawing attention to their problem drinking behaviors and help us understand the factors behind these behaviors,” Borah said.

The grant for the pilot program was provided by the WSU Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program. Learn more at http://labs.wsu.edu/healthcom/2014/10/07/test-2/



Porismita Borah, WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, 509-335-1319, pborah@wsu.edu

Darin Watkins, director of communications, WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, 509-335-4456, darin.watkins@wsu.edu