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Alcohol Awareness and Beyond: The Shape of Hope

04/01/2013

Spring is here, and so is Alcohol Awareness Month, in April. One of the highlights of Alcohol Awareness Month for 2013 is sure to be Shape of the Solution, the April 17 webinar sponsored by the federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking. During the webinar, four nationally recognized experts in the field of prevention will review age- and culturally appropriate methods shown to prevent underage drinking and the problems it often causes.

The webinar’s solution-oriented content reflects the theme of “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow,” which the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has announced for the 2013 April observance and for many of the youth-focused messages in the Organizer’s Guide. When NCADD first organized the annual April observance in 1987, media stories about underage drinking or other alcohol-related problems were uncommon and usually weren’t good news. Hope for tomorrow was generally confined to rare public testimonials of recovery; there wasn’t much awareness of solutions or how to shape solutions to promote healthy outcomes for particular people. Nor was much attention given to creating healthy, nurturing environments where young people could be free from easy access to alcohol and pressures to consume it.

Thanks in large measure to community-based organizations such as yours, the awareness-raising landscape has been dramatically transformed. More and more media coverage of underage drinking prevention offers hope that today’s youth can be spared from harm, and much of the coverage describes solutions taking shape in your communities. It is rare for the Too Smart To Start Newsroom, hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), not to post at least one or two positive media pieces about underage drinking prevention efforts every day. In fact, the Newsroom widget has become an increasingly popular tool to help groups like yours deliver fresh content to their website visitors and increase their understanding of underage drinking prevention. In addition, the ICCPUD web portal home page offers an abundance of material, such as brief descriptions of recent news about research and resources.

Today’s increased attention to underage drinking and other alcohol-related problems doesn’t mean that our awareness-raising job is done and that we can move on to other challenges. There is always a new audience for April’s Alcohol Awareness Month messages and information about the potential harmful consequences of underage and excessive drinking, as well as others who need reminding. If you held a 2012 Town Hall Meeting on the issue, or are planning one for 2013, educating members of your community is bound to be an important item on your agenda.

But much of today’s alcohol awareness push is in delivering a newer message: Prevention works! Helping decisionmakers and concerned neighbors recognize the progress in preventing underage drinking is the new awareness-raising challenge. Reporting prevention’s good news, as reflected in the declining prevalence of teen drinking, has become an essential component of outreach efforts such as Alcohol Awareness Month and many recent successful Town Hall Meetings. The good news we bring in April of 2013 is that the shape of the solution to underage drinking is in sight and—for increasing numbers of those under age 21—the hope for tomorrow is here today.