From 1996 to 1998, the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., worked to strengthen the collaborative efforts between two local coalitions: the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Valley, which focused on reducing adult and youth tobacco use, and the ALERT Partnership, which focused on illegal drug and alcohol issues.
In many communities, separately organized tobacco, drug, and alcohol coalitions have often encountered barriers to working together. In this effort, the two coalitions undertook a number of collaborative activities aimed at coordinating policy-related efforts designed to reduce youth alcohol and tobacco use in Northampton and Lehigh counties.
In some of the activities, they worked closely during this project with two coalitions already in place in the region, each of which is funded through a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program:
- Project IMPACT, Lehigh University's binge-drinking-reduction effort (ID# 030199) is a site in A Matter of Degree: Reducing High-Risk Drinking among College Students.
- The Pennsylvania Underage Drinking coalition (ID# 030833) is a site in Reducing Underage Drinking through Community and State Coalitions.
- The coalitions surveyed 400 police chiefs, supervisors, municipal managers, and mayors in Lehigh and Northampton counties and developed and disseminated a 1998 report, Affecting Youth Access to Tobacco and Alcohol, which summarized the local ordinances and policies in place in Lehigh and Northampton counties to restrict youth access to tobacco and alcohol and which included a model ordinance on banning alcohol and tobacco billboard advertising.
- In May 1998, the Allentown City Council passed an ordinance banning both tobacco and alcohol outdoor advertising within a 500-foot radius of any school, playground, church, or daycare center.
- A similar ordinance was under review in Bethlehem, Pa. at the close of this grant.
- Community meetings were held in Bethlehem to develop neighborhood-based strategies that would reduce advertising as well as sales of alcohol and tobacco products to youth.
Project staff provided a community analysis of South Bethlehem, Pa., in which crime data were mapped over the locales of tobacco and alcohol outlets as well as advertisements.
- The coalitions also conducted an assessment of local colleges' commitment to alcohol and tobacco policy change and held a seminar on drinking on college campuses that was attended by more than 50 college representatives.
- Staff also provided training for police department officers in the communities of Hellertown and Whitehall, Pa., about establishing merchant compliance checks to prevent tobacco sales to youth.
- The coalitions also held legislative breakfasts in 1997 and 1998, during which they:
- Described the work of the two coalitions.
- Updated legislators and candidates on current alcohol and tobacco policy issues.
- Discussed the implications of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's plan to privatize the state-run and state-managed liquor store system.
- Encouraged candidates to sign the no-tobacco-money pledge concerning campaign contributions.
Three legislators signed the pledge, bringing the total to 8 out of 17 Lehigh Valley area state and federal legislators who have signed the pledge, which was developed by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Valley.
RWJF supported the project with a grant of $46,400 between September 1996 and November 1998.
Matching funds were provided by The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, a local Lehigh Valley philanthropy with the mission of improving the health status of citizens of Lehigh Valley.