Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior

Creating system and policy changes to promote safe alcohol consumption in La Crosse

Full Project Name:Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior: Policy changePrimary Community Organization:La Crosse Medical Health Science ConsortiumPrimary Academic Partner:Stephen Hargarten, MD, MPH, Emergency MedicineAward Amount:$750,000
Award Date
July2012
Project Duration:63 months

Project Description Narrative:


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use, either in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, can lead to increased risk of health problems such as liver disease or unintentional injuries.

The 2010 Wisconsin Epidemiological Profile on Alcohol and Other Drug Use showed that La Crosse County's alcohol-related hospitalization rate for 2006-2008 was 21.5% higher than the state average. In early 2009, La Crosse County ranked fourth worst in the state for binge drinking among 18-25 year olds. Recognizing that the issue of alcohol use and misuse must be addressed as a public health and safety issue, rather than an issue of individual behavior, project partners built a cross-sector coalition that identified the burden of alcohol-related injury in La Crosse County, compiled community assets around alcohol-related injury prevention, and developed a strategic plan identifying underage access and binge drinking as a major community issue.

To build long-term, sustainable solutions, project partners will aim to expand partnerships with tavern owners and local festival organizers, policymakers, and others to create policy and system changes that will result in a safe environment for alcohol consumption through changes in local alcohol licensing policies; practices on college campuses, in taverns, and at festivals; and by educating current and future leaders in community collaboration.

Community partners:
Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) #4, Coulee Council on Addictions, Gundersen Health System, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Produced changes in local alcohol licensing policies, providing education to the seven municipalities in La Crosse County resulting in all seven passing social host ordinances for their communities and as well as a resolution in the city of La Crosse recommending specific alcohol safety practices for certain license holders

• Established changes in practices on college campuses by establishing two new campus policies at UW-La Crosse supporting the provision of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) training for all residence halls and implementation of an alcohol safety policy at the student union

• Established changes in practices at taverns and local festivals by conducting Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) trainings with more than 200 servers and an abbreviated training with more than 450 volunteer servers for area festivals

• Successfully developed and passed an increase in bartender license fees to fund future RBS trainings and obtained a commitment from the La Crosse City Police Department to continue serving as instructors for the training

• Educated current and future leaders in community collaboration, developing an elected official training program in partnership with the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project and Dane, Marathon, and Rock Counties. Conducted two training sessions with La Crosse County officials

• Supported an annual Parents Who Host Lost the Most campaign that included billboards, public service announcements, and print materials, exposing parents to campaign messaging during critical prom and graduation seasons

• Established effective partnerships and worked to share project outcomes broadly, hosting a regional conference, conducting statewide webinar on festival practices, and presenting at Wisconsin Public Health Association annual conference

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