Here are a couple of great resources uncovered by technical assistance team member Susie Amundson. Have you run across these in your work? Do you know about similar resources you’d like to share? Please feel free to add your questions and comments!

Screening Opportunities for Alcohol Use: Doctor Visits

A recurring question in the Alaska SPF SIG is “How do communities promote significant, lasting reductions in heavy and binge drinking?”

The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recently reported that one effective prevention strategy is for health care providers to ask patients about alcohol use and advise them to reduce risky drinking behaviors. In a random survey of more than 4,000 people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 39 years old, participants who had seen a doctor in the past year were asked about their doctor’s inquiry into their alcohol use or safe drinking practices during the visit.

Of all participants exceeding the NIAAA drinking guidelines (not more than 4 drinks/day for men and 3 for women), only 49% recall being asked about their drinking and only 14% counseled about it. Of adults between ages 18 and 25, only 14% were asked about their drinking by their doctors compared to 54% of adults ages 26 to 39.

Previous studies found that alcohol screenings by health care providers can promote significant, lasting reduction in drinking and alcohol-related problems. Could this be a possibility in your community?

To read more:


Transforming Community Norms Around Alcohol

As SPF SIG coalitions complete their community-level logic models this month, several of them have included Community Norms as a reason why underage drinking and adult heavy and binge drinking are ongoing concerns in their communities. It’s a common theme across Alaska.

To address how to change community norms and start thinking about strategies, check out the Positive Community Norms model developed at Montana State University, another rural state with a strong drinking culture.

“The Positive Community Norms (PCN) model is a new approach to cultivating community cultures around health and safety issues. PCN is a community (or environmental) transformational approach that engages many different audiences throughout the community for the purpose of improving health and safety. PCN integrates leadership, positive norms communication, and prevention portfolio integration across the social ecology to improve health and safety.”

Sound too good to be true? Just click this link to find out the details and how it’s being used in other communities:

Thanks to Susie Amundson for these resources!

MADD Blog: 100 Deadliest Days of Summer
Did you know the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is considered the “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers? According to AAA, an average of 399 teens died in motor vehicle accidents during each of the summer months (May, June, July, August) last year in the U.S. compared to 346 teen deaths during non-summer months.

What can parents do to keep their teens safe? AAA offers these tips for parents:

  • Limit the number of passengers in a teen’s car. When two or more passengers are in the vehicle, fatal car crashes increase five-fold than when a teen drives alone.
  • Restrict night driving. The chances of teen drivers involved in fatal car crashes double at night.
  • Eliminate trips without purpose. In other words, no just “driving around.”
  • Make a parent-teen driving agreement. In writing or verbally, agree to clear rules about driving at night, passengers, access to the car, and more. And parents — enforce those rules with your teen.
  • Discuss the risks of alcohol. Talk with teens about not drinking until they are 21 and not getting in a car with someone who has been drinking.
  • Buckle Up. Be persistent with teens to wear their seatbelts at all times, no matter where they are sitting in the car.
  • Be Present. Let your teen know that you are always available to help, give a ride, or provide advice and that they will not be punished should they need your help.

To gain more information about underage drinking from MADD, link in to:

Study Links Violence to Take-away Alcohol
Do you think there is a direct link between the number of alcohol outlets in an area and the violence occurring there? Could that be true in your community?

Two U.S. scientists concluded from their 2010 study in Cincinnati, Ohio that the more shops (i.e., alcohol outlets, bars, restaurants) in an area, the more assaults occurred. They used a math technique to compare the density of bars, restaurants, and alcohol outlets with police records of the number of assaults that occurred in geographic areas. There was an association between the density of alcohol outlets and the density of assaults.

The strongest association with violence was connected to “off-premise outlets.” Linkages to violence were less for restaurants or bars where alcohol is consumed on the premises. The scientists shared that this was likely because in bars, there was “more social control” including management, bouncers, and bystanders that can break up a fight before it escalates there.

To read more about violence and its link to take-away alcohol, connect to:

Have you found articles or websites related to underage drinking, drinking and driving, or alcohol and violence? Please share!

Ideas for Coalition Structure

June 25th, 2012 | Posted by karen in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

There are many ways to structure a coalition; by the same token, it’s never too late to take a step back and consider your coalition’s structure, and whether it still meets the needs of your community. Is it set up in a way that helps you achieve your goals? Are group processes and lines of communication clear to members? Do you have committees or work groups within the coalition, and if so, are they still meeting the group’s needs?

Two Alaska grantees have been generous enough to share their organization charts with us, as examples. Feel free to share these with your coalition as a way to start exploring what’s currently working for you, and where you might be able to strengthen the coalition even more. You can find them on the Tools and Resources page (, under Step 2: Capacity, “Helpful Tools.” Look for the links in that section called “Organization Chart Example: Homer Prevention Project,” and “Example Organization Chart: AICS Super Coalition.”

What has worked well when setting up a coalition in your community? What things have you changed to improve how the coalition functions?

Thanks to Susie Amundson for passing along these educational opportunities for SPF SIG grantees!

Underage Drinking Costs:

Tragic health, social, and economic problems result from the use of alcohol by youth. According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center (UDETC), underage drinking is a causal factor in a host of serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, and high-risk sex, to name a few. In addition, underage drinking cost U.S. taxpayers $62.0 billion in 2010 alone. Check out UDECT’s analysis of problems and costs associated with underage drinking in the U.S. and find out the consequences of underage drinking in Alaska at

What Is A Social Host?

All of us have overheard adults say that they’d rather their teenagers drink at an adult-chaperoned home than on a back road or a beach. Adults who host parties where alcohol is served to youth on their property are dubbed social hosts. In efforts to hold adults responsible for contributing to illegal and unhealthy underage drinking, some communities are adopting social host ordinances. Because after all, underage drinking is also very much an adult problem! For up-to-date information and resources related to social hosting, check out MADD’s link at

For those of you wondering how to get the word out in your community about the Strategic Prevention Framework and your prevention efforts, a great example comes to us from the Homer Prevention Project. Some of the news coverage the coalition has received came about because of the project staff’s initiative in sending out press releases, while others, according to project director Esther Hammerschlag, were “spontaneous ones that I did not spur with press releases.” It pays to have staff and coalition members who can help get the word out! If you would like to see examples of what media coverage can look like, here are a few links to local news stories about the State Incentive Grant project in Homer:

Luckily, Homer has two local newspapers. Your community may have newspapers, radio and even local television stations, or it may have none of these things. How have you used local media (or other methods) to spread the word about your prevention project?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a couple of learning opportunities that might be useful for Alaska’s SPF SIG grantees.

1. Binge Drinking Video: CDC-TV, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Did you know that 70% of all binge drinking episodes occurring each year in the U.S. involve people over 26 years old? This short video (4:23 min) debunks the many myths of binge drinking and opens our eyes to community environmental strategies that hinder binge and heavy drinking. Tune into CDC-TV for this short and informative video, and share with coalition and community members. A complete script of the video is linked on the same page to provide written information about binge drinking. Access the video here:

2. Webpage: CDC Vital Signs of Binge Drinking: Nationwide Problem, Local Solutions

As each of the Alaska SPF SIG grantees gathers Community Assessment information, this webpage handily outlines some of the statistics about binge drinking and its consequences in the U.S. and states. Connect up with the CDC’s Vital Signs of Binge Drinking webpage to gain a better understanding of the problem and what can be done to prevent binge drinking.Everyone can help support effective community strategies to prevent heavy + binge drinking. Learn how here:


Thanks to Beth McLaughlin for this post!

SPF SIG grantees in Southeast Alaska hit a bump in the assessment process with the realization that none of the schools in their project area –Angoon, Kake and Klukwan – had participated in the Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (YRBS) in recent years. Though each community, as part of agreeing to be part of the project, agreed to conduct the YRBS in future years, the lack of current data left a big gap. According to the local evaluator, Kerry MacLane, “The YRBS is an important element in cross-site evaluation. Collecting YRBS information from our communities allows us to compare our results to other grantees in the state as well as nationally…we had zero baseline data for youth…and we knew that administering something in the schools [to be able to gather baseline data] would be difficult, with the need to gather the [State of Alaska] required parental permission in the schools…we felt like we’d get a really low response rate.”

Faced with this challenge, MacLane and project director, Wilbur Brown of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) came up with a Plan B. MacLane visited the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, where sample YRBS surveys are posted along with a toolkit, which provides advice on how to field the survey. Since the YRBS asks a large number of questions, of which not all are related to youth consumption of alcohol and access to alcohol, the SEARHC team selected questions that pertained to alcohol use and put them into their own, shorter survey. They also added YRBS questions regarding suicide and one question related to youth awareness of the SEARHC Crisis Hotline. They also modified the language of some of the questions, to make it more applicable to the people in their project area. For example, the word “community” was replaced with “village.” State evaluator, Jesse Metzger also provided assistance by putting together a spreadsheet that the SEARHC team could use to easily tabulate survey results.

The next question was how to field the survey. MacLane and Brown decided not to field the survey in the local schools, so that getting parental permission would not be such an issue. Instead, the group focused on making the survey a community event. Having visited each site to introduce the project, community members were also asked for input on how to field surveys in ways that they would be comfortable with and ways that were likely to draw the most respondents – which is key to getting a good response rate.

Said MacLane, “When we asked what works best, community members told us: Food! In small communities where there is no movie theater, no restaurants, and even open gym hours at the local school are limited, there is not a lot of competition [for a social event]…and if you have one that involves food, people love it! If you make it a potluck, people love trying to out-do each other. For the events we put on, SEARHC provides a main item like fish and everybody else contributes side dishes.”

The SEARHC team is taking the community event approach to fielding their adult survey and their youth survey. For adults who complete the survey, the added incentive is being entered in a raffle for $50 gift certificates for heating oil. For the youth, they are combining the survey as part of an event that might include an art project or a movie, followed by dinner. After the kids eat, surveys are completed and there is a drawing for an iPod.

Having positive events benefits the community, raises awareness about the SPF process and, says MacLane, “the surveys get completed and parents are happy…parents like the idea of their kids having something constructive to do.”

Webinar for Alaska’s Coalitions: Whether your coalition is brand new or has been working together for many years, there will be plenty of great information available at an upcoming webinar to be offered just for Alaska’s grantees by SAMHSA’s Collaborative for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT) on Thursday, May 10. Specific times and other details are expected to go out to grantees by the end of this week, so keep an eye out for this exciting opportunity!

Save the Date: We’re excited to announce the dates for the Year 2 grantee training: it will take place Tuesday, September 25 through Thursday, September 27, in Anchorage. More details will be forthcoming, but we can tell you there will be helpful information and tools for use in your capacity building and strategic planning steps, tailored grantee work sessions, and plenty of opportunities for grantees to share helpful information with one another. We look forward to seeing project staff and coalition members there.

By now, most of you should be either drowning in data or at least putting together your plans for gathering it. And, while some of you, if you are number geeks like me, may get mighty excited at the thought of collecting and analyzing data, others of you may be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute! Why should we go and collect a bunch of data and statistics? We can see what’s happening in our community with our own eyes!”

And actually, you are at least partially right. Observation and anecdote are two sources of information, also known as – you guessed it – data. When I go into my kitchen and see that the only remaining hint of bread is that little heel at the end that no one wants, that is observational data. The data tells me it’s time to go buy more bread at the store. (Okay, so I am a very lucky woman and my husband does the grocery shopping, but still.) But sometimes observation only tells us part of the story. I may not know, for instance, that my hero of a spouse stocked up on bread at Costco and there are five more loaves in the freezer. And the same goes for observation of what’s happening in a community. We see part of it, but others in the community may see or know things we don’t. So to form a more complete picture, we may need to go and collect data from places other than our own eyes and ears.

Here’s a real-life example. (Thanks for this example goes to Mark Friedman for his book, Trying Hard is Not Good Enough, one of the fabulous books recommended by Diane Casto at our October grantee training.)

In a particular region of one state, Medicaid costs for nursing home care were growing much more quickly than in the rest of that state. Naturally, the question that arose was, Why?

Remember Intervening Variables? A fancy term for asking the question, “Why?” 

The “why” in this case turned out to be that many more elders were being admitted to nursing homes in that part of the state. So the next question was, Why here?

Remember Contributing Factors? Another fancy term, this one for the question, “Why here?”

Someone could have remembered some national news story they’d read and suggested that their part of the state simply had more elders than other parts of the state. They could have decided that demand was growing faster than capacity and therefore they must need more nursing facility space in their area. In fact, if they had come to that conclusion, it’s quite possible nobody would have questioned it, and a massive capital campaign might have followed, with lots of people rallying around the need to raise money to build a new nursing facility.

But they didn’t. Instead of jumping into action, they decided to step back and spend some time gathering data. Here’s what they found out: In their area, one of the primary reasons for admission into a nursing facility was hip fractures among elders. Digging even further (“Why here?”) they uncovered a major contributing factor: winter. Elders were experiencing a higher-than-average rate of hip fractures from falls. Many of those falls were happening due to ice and snow during winter months. Instead of building a gigantic, sparkly new nursing facility, the community focused on reducing elder falls. Their efforts included, for example, the much less expensive strategy of organizing a massive effort to shovel the walkways for that community’s elders.

We all want to make our communities better, and when we’re out there doing something, it makes us feel good to know we’re contributing back. When we start by gathering as much information as we can, and then stepping away from our preconceived notions to really consider the information – the data – we’ve collected, then when we begin the doing, we can feel even better, knowing that we’re doing the thing or things that are most likely to make a meaningful, long-lasting difference.

Have you ever had an instance where getting new data has changed your thinking, or altered your course of action? Please share!

Welcome to Alaska’s brand new blog for grantees of the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (or SPF SIG for short). In this more casual online atmosphere, we hope to share the things we learn along our journey of implementing the Strategic Prevention Framework We also hope to share questions from grantees that we think might apply to other grantees, and share stories of success, be they big or small. Like the coalition that managed to recruit a local bar owner. Or the community that lost a major local organization as its lead but found another member organization willing to step up to that leadership role. Or the alert harbormaster who noticed a trend of young people trying to sneak alcohol down the boat ramp, and subsequently joined his local coalition, offering to share any data that might be helpful to the project. Hopefully, these kinds of stories and the new ones that develop will help keep you inspired and motivated to overcome the challenges that come up along the way.

Please feel free to share the link to our website (, which includes the page for this blog, on to additional coalition members, project partners, or others you think would benefit from the Alaska SPF SIG blog. The home page includes an easy way to subscribe, so that you’ll receive email notices of new blog posts and other website updates.

Those of us who provide support and resources for Alaska’s grantees all have our various reasons for believing that the Strategic Prevention Framework is a helpful tool for communities. For me, the final project evaluation report from the state of Nevada said it best:

“The SPF SIG project can be viewed as an important catalyst for a paradigm shift in the way substance abuse prevention is conducted…. Amongst other things, it… encourages conceptualization of substance abuse prevention issues as public health concerns with community-level environmental solutions; and it emphasizes needs assessment, capacity building, strategic planning, and evaluation to the same degree that it emphasizes implementation of strategies. Many participants had experience with projects that focused on at least one of these aspects of the SPF SIG, but the combination of these emphases was unusual…”

What do you like about the Strategic Prevention Framework? What keeps you inspired to commit the next few years to this important work? Please feel free to share your own inspirations through the Comments section!