CDC’s Response to Excessive Alcohol Use
CDC’s Alcohol Program strengthens the scientific foundation for preventing excessive alcohol use by improving public health surveillance, conducting applied public health research, supporting state and local public health agencies, and working with national partners, including other federal agencies.
Collecting and Sharing Data to Guide Prevention Strategies
CDC uses surveys—such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System—to collect data on excessive alcohol use, including binge and underage drinking. Indicators measured include how often binge drinking occurs, the number of drinks consumed per binge drinking episode, and the rates of binge drinking in different population groups. States and communities can use this information to guide development of public health strategies to reduce excessive drinking and related harms.
CDC developed and is using the online Alcohol-Related Disease Impact application to provide state and national estimates of deaths and years of potential life lost from excessive alcohol use. This information helps states and communities characterize the public health impact of excessive drinking and guides the development of prevention strategies for excessive drinking.
CDC also published the Guide for Measuring Alcohol Outlet Density pdf icon[PDF – 13.2MB]. Outlet density refers to the number and concentration of places that sell alcohol in a defined area. Higher alcohol outlet density is a risk factor for excessive alcohol use and related harms, such as violence. This publication can help state and local health agencies assess outlet density and guide their efforts to regulate it.
Using Proven Strategies and Evaluating Their Effectiveness
On the basis of strong scientific evidence, the Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends the following strategies to prevent excessive alcohol use and related harms:
- Increase alcohol excise taxes.
- Regulate alcohol outlet density.
- Hold retailers accountable for harms that result from illegally serving or selling alcohol.
- Maintain existing government controls over alcohol sales (avoiding privatization).
- Maintain limits on the days and hours when alcohol can be sold.
- Use electronic devices—such as computers, telephones, and mobile devices—to screen people for excessive alcohol use and deliver a brief intervention.
- Enforce laws that prohibit alcohol sales to minors.
CDC scientists work with state and local health agencies to evaluate the effect of evidence-based prevention strategies on excessive alcohol use and related harms. For example, CDC worked with the Georgia Department of Health to study the effect of regulating alcohol outlet density in one Atlanta neighborhood and found that a modest decrease in exposure to alcohol outlets was associated with a significant decline in exposure to violent crime.
Supporting State and Local Health Agencies
CDC supports alcohol epidemiologists in five states to conduct public health surveillance on excessive alcohol use and guide state and community efforts to prevent this behavior. CDC also helps states and cities improve the usefulness of public health surveillance systems for monitoring and reducing excessive alcohol use. Technical assistance, such as legal research and advice on how to measure alcohol outlet density, is available to help state and local health agencies use effective strategies to reduce excessive drinking.
Providing National Leadership
CDC works with other federal agencies to support the prevention of excessive alcohol use. For example, the agency works with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other federal agencies on the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Prevention of Underage Drinking, which prepares an annual report to Congress.
CDC also works with many national organizations, including the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), to prevent excessive drinking. CADCA has, in turn, worked with its member coalitions to help translate strategies for preventing excessive alcohol use that are recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force into practice at state and local levels.