Empowering Communities to Prevent Underage Drinking

Communities Talk
Throughout the month of April (Alcohol Awareness Month), Vanguard Communications is focusing on our social marketing work that helps prevent underage drinking. Visit our blog, Facebook and Twitter pages all month long for insights and information about underage drinking prevention.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and thousands of community-based organizations nationwide are raising awareness about underage drinking prevention by hosting Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking. Every two years since 2006, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in collaboration with the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking, has sponsored these meetings by providing $500 stipends and other resources to eligible community-based organizations (CBOs) to help them facilitate dialogues on underage drinking prevention.

On February 1, I attended SAMHSA’s 12th Annual Prevention Day in National Harbor, Maryland: the official kickoff for the 2016 Town Hall Meetings cycle. I began providing technical assistance to CBOs for this initiative in 2012, and to my surprise, I spoke with numerous CBO representatives who have been participating since even before my time!

Whether via phone or email, I’ve also communicated with hundreds of prevention professionals across the United States and American territories. They represent a range of different locations; from rural cities to metropolitan areas, and everything in between. The one common denominator is their proactive commitment to preventing and reducing alcohol use and its associated consequences in their respective communities.

This year marks a special focus for Town Hall Meetings, including a new name — Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking.

Communities Talk Program Icon

To organizations who are hosting Town Hall Meetings either this month or in the future, I offer the following tips to make the dialogue engaging and impactful:

  • Engage youth in your community as active contributors. In 2014, young people participated as planners, speakers and audience members in more than three-fourths of Town Hall Meetings. Youth bring a unique perspective to these events, and can have a major influence on their peers.
  • Explore using social media to deliver prevention-based messaging and campaigns. Evidence suggests that pro-substance messages delivered via social media may influence substance abuse among persons 19 years old or younger, an age group that uses social media at increased rates. This trend emphasizes the need to develop strategic prevention efforts to counter these messages. Encourage meeting organizers to join SAMHSA’s discussion by following #CommunitiesTalk.

  • Incorporate discussions about increasing protective factors for underage drinking prevention. Protective factors are conditions or attributes that help individuals deal more effectively with stressful events and eliminate risk in families and communities. A few examples include:
    • Parent-family connectedness
    • School connectedness
    • Cultural identity and connection
    • Engagement in meaningful activities

SAMHSA offers many free tools, downloadable materials and other resources to help you hold a successful Town Hall Meeting.

Visit https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/townhallmeetings for more information.