What You Can DoCommunity Education to Prevent Youth From Drinking

Does your community have educational programs and policies to prevent youth from drinking?

Talk to youth about the dangers of early alcohol use. The most important educational messages about alcohol and alcohol use come from the home. Encourage friends and neighbors to talk to their children about alcohol. For example, most young people harbor false beliefs about alcohol and driving impairment. Many think it would take several alcoholic drinks or many beers to impair their driving. Research shows that one or two alcoholic drinks or four or five beers often produce blood alcohol concentrations in excess of the legal limit. Even with low to moderate blood alcohol concentrations, younger people are more likely to be in traffic crashes when drinking alcohol. This message needs to be brought home to teenagers.

Encourage your schools to adopt constructive alcohol policies and prevention programs.
As a member of the community, you can work with schools in a community-wide effort to educate and reduce the availability of alcohol to youth. Many schools have alcohol policies that prohibit alcohol and alcohol use on school grounds. You can volunteer your time and effort to help schools maintain and enforce this policy at school dances, sporting events, and other functions. You can also assist schools in the planning and implementation of alcohol-free activities that provide youth with fun alternatives to drinking, such as bowling nights or after school activities to occupy youth during times when they are most idle and likely to turn to alcohol for something to do.

Encourage parents to learn about their responsibilities regarding alcohol access and service to children and adolescents in their homes.
As a community member or group, you can educate parents about the existing policies around supplying alcohol to anyone less than 21 years of age. If underage parties are a common occurrence in your community, consider hosting a neighborhood meeting in which you review your state’s legal ramifications for supplying alcohol to youth, as well as any social host liability laws that spell out the responsibilities of parents and other adults for providing alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 and the penalties for disobeying the laws. You might also set up a neighborhood watch program or work with law enforcement in their efforts to enforce controlled party dispersal plans to break up underage parties successfully.

In addition to neighborhood efforts, community members can place underage alcohol use and issues associated with it on agendas for PTA, local government, faith group, service club, and other community group and organization meetings. This is another means to educate parents and the community as a whole about underage alcohol access and the problems associated with it in the community.

Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers about the dangers of early alcohol use
. The media is an excellent resource to disseminate information about the dangers of early alcohol use. Encourage your local newspapers to publicize zero tolerance laws and penalties for underage youth drinking. Also, have the media publicize the efforts of law enforcement in your community if they have controlled party dispersal plans that will break up parties where alcohol is served to underage youth and cite youth who drink alcohol. Efforts such as these let the community know that underage drinking is not sanctioned and that efforts are being made to control youth access to alcohol.

Ask health care providers in the community to discuss alcohol use during children’s annual physical exams
. Specfic members of the community, such as health care providers, can influence youth in their alcohol use rates. According to a new study published in the Annals of Family Medicine , when a doctor spends just a few minutes talking to kids about the dangers of alcohol, those kids are 50 percent less likely to drink. The study reports when kids talked with their doctor, they had 55 percent fewer traffic accidents, 42 percent fewer emergency room visits and fewer arrests for underage drinking. When doctors warn kids about alcohol, they seem to listen. Encourage all health care providers who work with youth to integrate discussions about alcohol into annual physicals.

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