Alcohol and Other Drugs
Reducing Underage Drinking:
Policy and Environmental Change
Policy and environmental change are part of a comprehensive approach to prevention.
Public health involvement in policy has been increasing, because changes at this level can simultaneously influence the health of many people.
Public health has been getting increasingly involved in developing and advocating for policy-level change, because changes at this level can simultaneously influence the health of many people. This is because policies do not require people to continuously work to actively change behavior; rather, policies operate passively to change an entire environment.
As an example, substance abuse prevention has typically consisted of educating individuals or groups of individuals through a variety of communications.
Any behavior change outcome must rely upon each individual actively making decisions and choices, continuously. While education certainly is an important component of a comprehensive prevention plan, it shouldn’t be the only component.
There are ways to encourage change to happen on a level that would influence a community or larger population.
You can ultimately influence many more people by using traditional educational techniques, but targeted to a different kind of audience. Rather than having the “target audience” be individuals at risk of substance abuse, the target audience could be owners/managers of alcohol sales outlets, and sellers and servers of alcohol.
These audiences could be educated to make changes that would result in decreased alcohol-related problems among underage youth. In this instance, behavior changes made by a select few would thus change the behavior of many potential individual underage drinkers. This is what policy and environmental change are about.