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Health Team

E.R. program designed to curb teen alcohol use, violence

Posted August 3, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2010 7:15 p.m. EDT

For many teenagers in urban areas across the country, a hospital emergency department is the main point of medical care. They're often treated for injuries from violence or alcohol misuse.

A new study looked at program designed to change those behaviors and reduce ER visits.

In the emergency department of Hurley Hospital in Flint, Mich., researchers studied more than 3,300 teenage patients over a three-year period. They helped the teens learn how to decrease future violence and alcohol use.

One group had a brief intervention with a therapist. Another group participated in a computer intervention with audio and a third group just received a brochure.

"The therapist brief intervention (group) showed twice the reduction in peer violence, peer victimization and violence consequences than the control,” said Dr. Maureen A. Walton, of the University of Michigan.

The computer intervention alone decreased alcohol related problems like missing school and family problems six months after their emergency room visit, Walton said.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The findings of this study suggest that a 30-minute, brief intervention can positively change these adolescents' behaviors,” Walton said.

Researchers hope this structured intervention can be replicated in other emergency departments around the country.