After 4 Years, No Results Yet On $3.2M Study of Underage Drinking in NYC

By Curtis Houck | July 19, 2013 | 2:29 PM EDT

(AP photo)

( - U.S. taxpayers have shelled out over $3.2 million since 2009 to New York University (NYU) researchers to study underage drinking among New York Latinos in grades 7 through 9, but the four-year-old project has not yet produced a single academic article.

According to the grant abstract submitted to the National Institutes of Health entitled "Underage Drinking in Latino Youth," the project hopes to "inform the design of future interventions by identifying variables to target in such interventions" across "gender, Latino ethnicity and transitions from middle school to high school."

"The research will elucidate the developmental dynamics of the emergence of under-age alcohol use in inner city Latino populations representing Puerto Ricans and Dominicans living in the South Bronx of New York City."

Project leader Dr. James J. Jaccard, a professor of social work and co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU elaborated in an email to The study, he said, "tracks drinking-related cognitions, attitudes, norms, and behaviors as youth transition from middle school into the early high school years, when significant increases in drinking occur.

"We also are studying parenting and communication between parents and adolescents to better understand the role of the family during this critical developmental window. We are interviewing families twice a year for a three-year period," he added.

Jaccard said that he believes "this is an important investment" that "will lay the foundations for helping us to develop effective prevention programs with respect to underage drinking.

"I believe that investing money in scientific research so that the prevention programs we develop are evidence-based and have a strong foundation in empirical science ultimately will be much more successful than relying on more subjective, non-data driven judgments to develop and implement such programs. This is a good use of monies set aside for research."

There have already been five dispersions of funds to the project from NIH since it received its initial funding on July 1, 2009 in the amount of $629,582. Another $606,520 was released on April 2, 2013.

When asked Jaccard why there have not been any academic articles published since 2009, he responded by stating that it was partially due to his move from Florida International University to NYU and the long-term nature of the underage drinking study.

In addition, he said that "it is common" for the findings of lengthy studies to be published towards the end of the grant's lifetime rather than earlier, when data is still being collected. "We certainly will be publishing multiple articles reporting the longitudinal results of the research" six months after the data has been fully collected and analyzed, he said, adding that his initial findings will be presented at a conference in October.

In a statement to, the NIH said that such "research addresses the full spectrum of human health across all populations of Americans."

"Research into unhealthy human behaviors that are estimated to be the proximal cause of more than half of the disease burden in the U.S. will continue to be an important area of research supported by NIH.  Only by developing effective prevention and treatment strategies for health-injuring behaviors can we reduce the disease burden in the U.S. and thus, enhance health and lengthen life, which is the mission of the NIH."