Category Archives: Alcohol abuse/alcoholism
The first Vital Signs health indicators report of 2013 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention finds that binge drinking is too often not recognized as a women’s health problem. The report found that nearly 14 million U.S. women binge drink about three times a month, and consume an average of six drinks per binge. CDC researchers determined the rate of binge drinking among U.S. women and girls by looking at the drinking behavior of approximately 278,000 U.S. women aged 18 and older for the past 30 days through data collected from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and for approximately 7,500 U.S. high school girls from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
For women and girls, binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on one occasion. Drinking excessively, including binge drinking, causes about 23,000 deaths among women and girls in the United States each year. About 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 high school girls report binge drinking, with the practice most common among women ages 8-34, high school girls, whites, Hispanics and women with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Half of all high school girls who drink alcohol report binge drinking.
The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy is about to celebrate its first anniversary. The Strategy offers a comprehensive plan aimed at increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. A cornerstone of the National Prevention Strategy is that it recognizes that good health comes not just from receiving quality medical care, but also from the conditions we face where we live, learn work and play such as clean water and air, safe worksites and healthy foods. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others.
As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about the initiatives being introduced to help Americans work toward the goal of long and healthy lives.
This week, NewPublicHealth spoke with Mary Engle, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Division of Advertising Practices, and National Prevention Council designee.
NewPublicHealth: Why is health a priority for the FTC? Why was it important for FTC to be involved in the development of the National Prevention Strategy?
Mary Engle: When you think about our mission, which is to protect consumers and maintain competition in the marketplace, health is such an important part of that. We want to make sure consumers aren’t misled about health services and products marketed to them and that they don’t pay more than they need to.
Initiatives that are a priority for us include combating deceptive advertising of fraudulent cure-all claims for dietary supplements and weight loss products; monitoring and reporting on the marketing of food to children as well as alcohol and tobacco marketing practices; and developing consumer education materials designed to empower consumers to make informed health care decisions and to avoid fraud.
NPH: What FTC initiatives support the National Prevention Strategy?
The January 2012 issue of Vital Signs, the monthly health indicator report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), finds that more than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink an average of four times a month and the most drinks they consume, on average, is eight.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men. Excessive alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, causes more than 80,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
The Vital Signs report is based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), which includes self-reporting about binge drinking within the last thirty days. The report includes data on 458,000 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older. The numbers are higher than for the year before because, for the first time, the information includes cell phone users. Researchers have found higher rates of binge drinking among cell phone users because they tend to be disproportionately younger males.
The report has some startling numbers:
- Binge drinking is more common among young adults ages 18 to 34, but people age 65 and older who report binge drinking, do so more often—an average of five to six times a month.
- Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more, but the number of drinks consumed per binge drinking occasion is significantly higher among those with household incomes of less than $25,000—a whopping eight to nine drinks.
Dafna Kanny, PhD, an author of the report, who is an epidemiologist in the division of Adult and Community Health at CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, told NewPublicHealth that much of the binge drinking problem in the U.S. stems from the fact that “alcohol is relatively cheap, widely available, heavily promoted and too often not seen as a public health problem, which makes it a behavior of choice.”
Kanny says strong local and state alcohol polices, such as fewer outlets and hours for alcohol sales, and stricter penalties for selling alcohol to minors, can help reduce binge drinking. Kanny says the Alcohol Policy Information System, a resource from the National Institutes of Health, is an excellent source of ideas on alcohol policies that local and state governments can implement.
The silver bullet, says Kanny, would be policies that affect the most people with the least amount of efforts, such as alcohol-related policies from CDC’s Guide to Community Preventive Services.
Alcohol consumption is also impacted by liquor firms’ efforts in social media. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has recently released a four-part YouTube movie that looks at the industry’s push into digital marketing and a new brochure that looks at underage youth exposure to alcohol marketing in magazines, on radio and television and on social marketing platforms. For example, ten leading alcohol brands have more than 16.5 million people "liking" their Facebook brand pages.
“[Alcohol] brands are now taking their messages… to social media platforms such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook,” said David Jernigan, director of the Center. “As teens are early adopters of social media and there are viral elements of this media, parents need to be more aware of this marketing and educate their children about the real harms of underage drinking in spite of the industry’s message of glamour and allure.”
The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth was launched in 2002 at Georgetown University with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Center moved to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2008 and is currently funded by the CDC.