Local focus groups in Chickasaw County, Iowa, indicate that youth start drinking between 7th and 10th grade. The "Let’s Get To Work: Our County. Our Health. Our Future" event was designed to educate all segments of the community—primarily parents and students—about underage drinking and its consequences.
It had notable participants, including the CEO of the local hospital who shared not only why substance use prevention is important, but also how the Chickasaw Connections coalition hopes to address underage drinking.
How They Did It
According to Carol Hopp, Chickasaw Connections Partnerships for Success Coordinator, the following elements helped their Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking be successful:
- Setting goals for the meeting and staying focused on them.
The goals included educating on the consequences of underage drinking, sharing data on progress, increasing coalition involvement, and discussing future plans to address underage drinking.
- Conducting breakout sessions where small groups could focus on issues specifically relevant to them.
The high school youth group, for example, led the elementary and middle school students to the gym to share how and why they stay away from drugs and alcohol. Then, they demonstrated substance-free activities to show the younger students ways to have fun and feel good without using substances. The adults learned about alcohol and other drug paraphernalia that is easily accessible to local youth.
- Coordinating representation by segments of the community.
Participants included members of the law enforcement community, the local medical center, and schools, which brought credibility to the event and helped facilitate robust discussion.
A post-event survey found that:
- 82 percent of participants learned something new about underage drinking;
- 94 percent plan to share materials and lessons learned with others; and
- 93.5 percent listed a way they would become more involved in decreasing underage drinking in their community.
In addition, Chickasaw Connections learned a thing or two.
“Town hall meetings can be a really great way to get feedback that we don’t always get about what things we’re doing well and what things we should spend more time on,” says Hopp.
A Community in Action
Chickasaw County plans to pursue the following underage drinking prevention strategies:
- Supporting All Stars—an evidence-based school program that works with 7th graders on prevention.
- Implementing a media campaign to help 13- to 16-year-olds know the consequences of underage drinking.
- Reducing the number of alcohol advertisements youth are exposed to by working with grocery and convenience stores to create policies to limit the number of alcohol advertisements in and around their stores.
- Limiting alcohol availability in public places.
- Strengthening enforcement through party patrols—where law enforcement officers identify underage drinking parties and safely intervene—and conducting bar walk-throughs in some rural areas where law enforcement officers do not regularly visit.