Research Team Creates Brief, Reliable Alcohol Risk Survey for American Indian and White Adolescents

As part of a large-scale, NIH-funded prevention science study that aims to reduce underage alcohol use among American Indians and other adolescents in rural Oklahoma, an Institute for Child Health Policy and Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health team designed and executed a novel alcohol risk survey.

“American Indians suffer from alcohol-related health disparities beginning at an early age,” said Kelli Komro, Ph.D., MPH, professor of health outcomes and policy and associate director of the Institute for Child Health Policy. “In order to address this issue with an effective intervention, we had to ensure the surveys we used to gather information about youth alcohol use were reliable and valid across cultures and were short enough to be performed more than once per school year.”

The survey, which was described in an article, “Fifteen-Minute Comprehensive Alcohol Risk Survey: Reliability and Validity Across American Indian and White Adolescents” in Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published in December, had several unique aspects, including its brevity and its reliability and validity across cultures.

Typical behavioral health surveys require an entire class period to complete and are therefore implemented on an annual or even less frequent basis. In an effort to detect more precisely whether the community- and school-based interventions in the study were effective, the team decided to design a 15-minute survey, which allowed them to implement it four times per year.

In addition, the team designed the survey such that it was culturally appropriate, valid, and reliable for both American Indians and white adolescents. The carefully designed survey marks one of the first successful efforts at creating a survey with strong validity and reliability for both populations, since, up to this point, other studies have indicated a lower reliability for minority youth than white youth.

“Accurate surveys that are sensitive to cultural backgrounds and provide researchers with answers over time are crucial to truly begin to address the systemic health disparities facing minority youth,” said Komro. “This survey is one step in that direction.”

In addition to Komro, the research team included Melvin D. Livingston III, Ph.D., assistant research scientist and Institute for Child Health Policy faculty; Terrence K. Kominsky, Ph.D., with Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health; Bethany J. Livingston, B.S., research coordinator; Brady A. Garrett, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist with Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health and Institute for Child Health Policy postdoctoral fellow; Mildred Maldonado-Molina, Ph.D., associate professor of health outcomes and policy; and Misty L. Boyd, Ph.D., with Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health.

Read more about an additional grant the team received to study underage alcohol use among American Indian female adolescents here.