According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity cases 3.2 million deaths a year (http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_inactivity/en/). Alcohol, meanwhile, resulted in 3.3 million. So, while both are important public health areas, alcohol mortality is higher. http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/en/
Wisconsin is a wonderful state in many ways with a plethora of things to do. Why is it that its citizens drink so much? More importantly, why do state and local officials seem not to care when the impacts are clearly reducing the quality of life of people who live here? This is what I intend to address in this blog.
Not only have I lived in Wisconsin since 1987, I have an inside view of the problem of alcohol. My father, David, was the public health officer for Portage County. Later, he worked for the Centers for Disease Control among many other institutions where he focused on injury prevention and limiting the harms of alcohol and drug use. As a social worker, psychotherapist and substance abuse counselor I have seen the effects of heavy drinking first hand.
Here, first, are some of the articles I will be discussing throughout this blog:
88,000 people die from alcohol related fatalities in the United States making it the 4th leading cause of preventable death. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
A report issued by the Wisconsin Population Health Institute in 2013 found that the cost of alcohol policies in Wisconsin cost taxpayers approximately $6.8 billion. http://archive.jsonline.com/news/health/wisconsin-binge-drinking-exacts-68-billion-toll-new-report-says-4194g4u-197362241.html
Madison was recently rated fourth among cities in percentage of citizens who drink heavily or binge drink on a regular basis. Wisconsin State Journal, May 19, 2016. http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/city-life/wisconsin-takes-spots-in-top-for-drunkest-cities-madison-comes/article_7452c79c-c500-5cd3-8b4f-1a8ffb019149.html
Wisconsin’s high drinking rates linked to 4 A’s: Availability, Attractiveness, Affordability, Acceptance. Wisconsin Public Radio. September 8, 2014. http://www.wpr.org/wisconsins-drinking-problem-doesnt-stem-cultural-heritage-expert-says
Alcohol Outlet Density is a well known problem. A Dane County report from 2012 explains what problems might be expected from alcohol outlet density and what can be done to prevent it. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p0/p00778-dane.pdf
The University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health supports limiting alcohol outlet density: http://whatworksforhealth.wisc.edu/program.php?t1=21&t2=13&t3=38&id=74
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control conducted a 10 year study that looks more specifically at violent crime and alcohol outlet density.
The Centers for Disease Control's Community Preventive Task Force recommendations on alcohol sales are available here: http://www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/index.html Limiting alcohol outlet density is not the only recommendation - there are many that appear to address violent crime and other harms due to alcohol consumption.
A large meta-analysis published in a 2005 with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found, "A number of studies have found that in and near neighborhoods where there is a high density of places that sell alcohol, there is a higher rate of violence. That is, when bars, liquor stores, and other businesses that sell alcohol are close together, more assaults and other violent crimes occur."
I'm starting this blog to provide information and resources to the community and to help create a more constructive dialouge about policies affecting public health. Alcohol outlet density is only one of many aspects that deserve our attention. Thanks for reading!
About this blog
I am an advanced practice social worker (CAPSW), psychotherapist and addiction counselor living in Madison, Wisconsin. I created this blog to raise awareness about drinking culture, alcohol outlet density, alcohol policy, alcohol dependence and risks.