Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy

Building a strategy together 

Dalhousie’s Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy

Harm reduction is an evidence-based approach that aims to reduce the health and social harms associated with addiction and substance use by “meeting people where they are.” A harm-reduction approach empowers people who use substances to make informed choices and minimize harms through nonjudgmental and non-coercive strategies in order to enhance skills and knowledge to live safer and healthier lives.

A potential challenge to the harm reduction approach occurs when it is misunderstood as applying only to individual responsibility. This view fails to recognize circumstances beyond individual control that shape substance use and the efforts to reduce its harms (source: Harm Reduction & Illicit Substance Use: Implications for Nursing, Canadian Nurses Association 2017 ).

Dalhousie’s new Alcohol Harm Reduction (DAHR) Strategy represents a collaborative effort from across the Dalhousie community and is modeled after the Post Secondary Education Partnership-Alcohol Harms (PEP-AH) framework (an evidence-based, social ecological model for reducing harms related to alcohol).  

Goals and objectives of the DAHR Strategy

The goal of the DAHR Strategy is to create environments where Dalhousie students can live up to their fullest academic, personal and social potential—free from harm caused by alcohol or substances. These environments will be achieved by reaching two important objectives: 

  1. By 2025, decrease the frequency of binge drinking (5 or more drinks in one sitting) among Dalhousie students to meet or better the Canadian comparator school average as measured by the National College Health Assessment or equivalent.  
  2. By 2025, increase the likelihood of Dalhousie students to incorporate specific protective strategies when choosing to consume alcohol at a rate that meets or exceeds the Canadian comparator school average.

How the DAHR Strategy aligns with the PEP-AH framework  

The PEP-AH framework identifies five strategic areas, 11 high-level recommendations and 39 samples of initiatives. Together these contribute to alcohol harm reduction among post-secondary students.  

Our customization of the PEP-AH framework happens at the activity level, defined as “the services and interventions that post-secondary institutions develop to fulfill PEP-AH’s goal of reducing alcohol-related harms among students” (source: Core Questions for Post Secondary Student Population Surveillance of Alcohol Use in Canada. 2017).  

When the university conducted an inventory exercise to document its current position relative to the PEP-AH framework, it was discovered that Dalhousie is already delivering activities that align with 28 of the framework’s 39 sample initiatives.  

To see how Dalhousie’s current alcohol-harm related activities align with the framework, refer to the following pages that address each of the framework’s strategic areas:

The DAHR Strategy will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis through the Office of Health Promotion, Student Affairs. Year one recommendations for 2019–20 have been identified for current and new activities.

For more information

If you would like to learn more about the Post Secondary Education Partnership-Alcohol Harms, visit their website

To learn more about how the PEP-AH framework was developed, you can read "Reducing the Harms Related to Alcohol on Canadian Campuses: PEP-AH Strategy Background"

To learn more about the National College Health Assessment, visit their website

If you would like to learn more about or contribute to Dalhousie’s AHR Strategy, please contact our Manager of Health Promotion at