Environmental Strategies to Prevent Underage Drinking

two bottles clinking

Environmental Prevention Strategies (EPS) are population-based interventions that change the context in which individuals make decisions.1 EPS are important because they have the potential to alter the environment in such a way as to facilitate large numbers of individuals to make healthy choices. EPS that reduce underage drinking (i.e., among individuals 21 years of age or younger) exist, but information regarding what they are and their key elements may not always be clear. Substance use prevention leaders and practitioners working at the state, tribe, jurisdiction, and local levels need to fully understand EPS in order to select strategies that are a good “fit” given their available resources and readiness. They also need to understand the key elements of these strategies in order to track activities during monitoring and evaluation.

This guide includes information from existing research and practice literature on key elements associated with the EPS for reducing underage drinking. It also includes the populations for which the original strategy was designed, evaluation outcomes that support its effectiveness, and additional resources (e.g., links to more information) for readers.

Specifically, it includes environmental prevention strategies designed to reduce underage drinking and/or their consequences by:

  • Promoting policies, laws, and regulations (Policy)
  • Enforcing new and existing policies, laws, and regulations (Enforcement)
  • Communicating positive health messages (Communications)
  • Modifying multiple aspects of the social and physical environment (Multi-component)

This guide builds on the efforts of a national workgroup of project directors and evaluators leading prevention efforts under SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) programs, along with evaluation staff from the SPF SIG cross-site evaluation team, to assess fidelity (Gabriel et al., 2008).

1 See, for example, Freiden, T. R. (2010). A framework for public health action: The health impact pyramid. American Journal of Public Health, 100(4), 590-595; McLeroy, K. R., Bibeau, D., Steckler, A. and Glanz, K. (1988). An ecological perspective for health promotion programs. Health Education Quarterly, 15(4), 351-378; and Treno, A., & Lee, J. (2002). Approaching alcohol problems through an environmental lens. Alcohol Research & Health, 26(1), 35-40.