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Excessive Alcohol Use and Health Equity

September 8, 2023

Communicating to the public about health hazards in ways that promote health equity is a core public health function. When it comes to talking about the harms related to alcohol consumption in the US, public health voices may need to navigate several framing challenges. Such challenges range from the history of alcohol regulation in the US –the Prohibition era casts a long shadow on public thinking – to the contemporary perception that the production, distribution, and sale of beer, wine, and spirits are essential to state and local economies. To advance the adoption and implementation of effective public health approaches to reducing alcohol-related harms, public health voices may need ways to articulate the case in ways that make the benefits clear, avoid stigmatizing people who consume alcohol, and build support for policies that work for communities facing the greatest burden from alcohol-related health problems.

This brief offers insights from social science research on how to effectively frame public-facing communications on preventing and reducing alcohol-related harms. It was prepared by the FrameWorks Institute for ChangeLab Solutions in cooperation with the Alcohol Program of the CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Its primary intended audience is public health professionals working in government public health agencies at the federal, tribal, state, or local levels. Advocates working in non-governmental organizations to advance health equity, promote community-led public safety, prevent substance misuse, or reduce harm from alcohol may also find the recommended strategies of use.