Ad campaign takes positive approach to reducing youth alcohol consumption

What’s “The real Hibbing thing to do”?

It’s the slogan of an ad campaign launched this summer that aims to reduce alcohol consumption among young people in Hibbing by pointing out healthy alternatives to drinking—and that most high school students in the community do not drink alcohol.

“We want to highlight the positive things that our youth and citizens can do that do not involve using chemicals,” says Cheryl Bisping, Community Health outreach coordinator for Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing.

Healthy alternatives highlighted

The campaign is being promoted through billboards, radio spots, window clings, Facebook and newspaper ads. It highlights healthy, positive activities in the area—running, biking, golfing, four-wheeling, canoeing or kayaking—and points out that eight out of 10 Hibbing High School students don’t drink alcohol in a typical month.

Created by the Hibbing Chemical Health Advisory Committee, the campaign is partly an outgrowth of the medical center’s Community Health Needs Assessment, which identified substance abuse as a top local health concern.

The campaign is funded by a Minnesota Department of Human Services Alcohol & Drug Abuse Division grant.

“Community members can expect to see additional messages with this campaign in the future, as well as messages aimed more toward young adults,” says Katie Erickson, who coordinates the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant in Hibbing.

Fairview Range Community Health is the lead agency for managing the multi-year grant.

Focusing on ‘social norms’

Students—and adults—often base their behavior on what they think is “normal” within their peer group, says Katie. If engaging in a risky behavior is perceived as “normal,” students are more apt to engage in that behavior—and less likely to do so when healthy behaviors are perceived as the norm.

For example, results of the 2013 Positive Community Norms survey, distributed to students in various Minnesota communities, showed that those who perceived that “most” students don’t drink “monthly or more often” were five times less likely to drink monthly than students who perceived that “most” students do drink monthly or more often.

Hibbing did not participate in that survey, however, a separate survey showed most Hibbing High School students do not drink.

“The real Hibbing thing to do” campaign was developed with input from a local youth group called Teens Against Drugs and Alcohol. “It was so much fun to get their ideas and feedback,” says Katie.

A multi-pronged approach

The ad campaign is just one of several strategies the advisory committee is implementing to prevent underage drinking and binge drinking among youth and young adults. Other strategies include:

  • Encouraging “Responsible Beverage Server Training” and increased compliance checks
  • Supporting use of online alcohol prevention programs such as AlcoholEdu® for High School and AlcoholEdu® for College
  • Promoting alcohol restrictions at community events
  • Fostering Zero Adult Provider (ZAP) efforts which focus on working with law enforcement and the courts to hold accountable those who provide alcohol to minors

Hibbing Chemical Health Advisory Committee also develops community education events and fliers, helps with chemical-free social events for youth, and provides teacher training around alcohol and other drugs.

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