Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA)


Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) is a multi-step community organizing process, designed by community members (including youth) and led by a part-time community organizer, that combines policy, law enforcement, and communications strategies to prevent underage drinking.


  • To reduce commercial and social sources of alcohol to youth under age 21
  • To influence community attitudes and norms about underage drinking

Typical Elements

The CMCA process typically involves the following key elements (Wagenaar et al., 1999; 2000; Wagenaar & Perry, 1994):

  • A part-time local community organizer to coordinate and implement the CMCA process.
  • An assessment of community needs and resources with regard to underage drinking prevention and building relationships with key stakeholders. Activities can include:
    • Reviewing existing alcohol control policies, procedures, and enforcement practices
    • Conducting one-on-one meetings with leaders and citizens from diverse sectors of the community
    • Identifying individuals to participate in the leadership group (see below)
  • A core leadership group to plan and implement complementary strategies to prevent underage drinking that includes:
    • Local community leaders
    • Representatives from diverse sectors of the community (e.g., youth and parents, law enforcement, education, judicial system, public health, media, religious organizations, businesses)
  • A strategic plan based on local needs and resources that outlines the programs, policies, and/or practices required to address the underage drinking problem in the community. The plan should include a timeline for implementing activities and meeting goals. Interventions can include:
    • Developing and enforcing alcohol-related policies and restrictions in the community. For example, require merchants to record and report underage buy attempts, establish age requirements and noise limits at local motels, and prohibit beer kegs at homecoming. See Alcohol Restrictions at Community Events.
    • Disseminating prevention materials in the community, such as warnings for alcohol outlet customers about the legal consequences of purchasing alcohol for youth, flyers for graduating seniors and their parents that discourage drinking at prom/graduation parties and during the summer, and videos about underage drinking to be aired on local cable stations. See Social Marketing.
    • Implementing regular police compliance checks of alcohol outlets. See Compliance Checks.
    • Posting plainclothes police officers in liquor stores to monitor underage buy attempts. See Cops in Shops.
    • Implementing responsible beverage server training. See Responsible Beverage Server Training.
    • Creating alternative (i.e., alcohol-free) activities for youth and establishing alternative sentences for youth who violate drinking laws. See Diversion Programs.


  • Youth under age 21
  • Different segments of the general population depending on selected environmental prevention strategies


  • Compared to matched comparison communities, CMCA communities reported greater:
  • Reductions in the number of driving under the influence (DUI) arrests among 18–20 year olds (Wagenaar, Murray, & Toomey, 2000)
  • Reductions in the number of 18- to 20-year-olds trying to buy alcohol, drinking alcohol within the past 30 days, and providing alcohol to their peers (Wagenaar et al., 2000)
  • Reductions in the number of merchants selling alcohol to minors (Wagenaar et al., 2000)
  • Increases in the number of merchants checking age identification during alcohol transactions (Wagenaar et al., 2000)


CMCA Frequently Asked Questions

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA)

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) – Alcohol Purchase Outcome (Buyer Form)

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) – CMCA Strategy Team Member Survey

Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center Catalog of Environmental Strategies


Athena Forum: Excellence in Prevention

National Institute of Justice: Crime Solutions


Wagenaar, A. C., Gehan, J. P., Jones-Webb, R., Toomey, T. L., Forster, J. L., Wolfson, M., & Murray, D. M. (1999). Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol: Lessons and results from a 15-community randomized trial. Journal of Community Psychology, 27(3), 315-326.

Wagenaar, A. C., Murray, D. M., Gehan, J. P., Wolfson, M., Forster, J. L., Toomey, T. L., . . . Jones–Webb, R. (2000). Communities mobilizing for change on alcohol: Outcomes from a randomized community trial. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 85–94.

Wagenaar, A. C., Murray, D. M., & Toomey, T. L. (2000). Communities mobilizing for change on alcohol (CMCA): Effects of a randomized trial on arrests and traffic crashes. Addiction, 95(2), 209–217.

Wagenaar, A. C., & Perry, C. L. (1994). Community strategies for the reduction of youth drinking: Theory and application. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 4(2), 319–345.