Study finds public lacks awareness of effective alcohol control policies

May 30, 2002

The public has a strong awareness of alcohol's contribution to each of the leading causes of unintentional injury, but lacks awareness of alcohol control policies proven to reduce traumatic deaths, according to a study in the June 2002 Annals of Emergency Medicine. (Alcohol's Contribution to Fatal Injuries: A Report on Public Perceptions)

For three of the five injuries studied--falls, drowning, and poisoning--respondents were greatly aware of the role alcohol plays in these types of injuries. Respondents overestimated alcohol's role in motor vehicle crashes and were less aware of its role in fire and burn injuries.

In a national telephone survey of 943 randomly chosen adults, 78 percent did not believe that raising taxes on alcoholic beverages would result in fewer accidental deaths. Respondents were equally divided on whether raising the drinking age to 21 had resulted in fewer deaths. This means they were unaware of the overwhelming evidence demonstrating that tens of thousand of lives have been saved by this policy, according to the study's authors.

"Obviously, we need to do a better job of telling the public about the effectiveness of alcohol control programs and policies," said Deborah Girasek, PhD, MPH, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. "News of effective injury prevention methods should be shared, just as we would publicize the discovery of a drug that could save thousands of young lives."

The NHTSA Notes in this issue, suggests recommended best practices of emergency care for the alcohol-impaired patient. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the Emergency Nurses Association at a national conference developed these best practices. (Developing Best Practices of Emergency Care for the Alcohol-Impaired Patient)

The best practices are intended to engage emergency medical providers (paramedics, emergency physicians, and nurses) in providing education and prevention to patients with alcohol use problems to help reduce impaired driving injuries and fatalities.
Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians, a national medical organization with nearly 23,000 members. ACEP is committed to improving the quality of emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and a Government Services Chapter representing emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

American College of Emergency Physicians

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