Adolescents in rural areas are more likely to binge drink than adolescents in urban areas. Most Iowa residents live in rural areas and are concerned about their teenagers’ alcohol use. Project staff are providing training and technical assistance to build the capacity of and empower Iowa’s rural, community-based organizations (CBOs) to prevent adolescent drinking. In this study, empowerment is defined as effective social and political actions by individuals, communities, and organizations to improve residents’ quality of life. Although other community empowerment studies have been conducted, few have examined which characteristics improve an organization’s capacity to prevent health risk behaviors; of those conducted, most were qualitative studies, and responses to open-ended questions are not easily quantified. The centers’ researchers are adapting the qualitative measures and creating quantitative indicators to identify features of rural CBOs that support or hinder empowerment.
Center staff are training CBOs to increase the accountability of adults who provide alcohol to minors by influencing local legislators to enact a county-wide keg registration ordinance. The ordinance requires that each keg be engraved with a unique identifier. If a registered keg is found at an event where underage youths are drinking, authorities can trace the registration number to the person who purchased the keg and impose penalties. Currently, center-trained CBOs in four counties have played a key role in getting local ordinances passed, and center staff are training CBOs in six additional counties.
Researchers will analyze the studies’ qualitative and quantitative measures to determine the effects of the intervention on preventing adolescent drinking and will document changes in the CBOs’ capacity over time. If effective, center staff will assist CBOs in collaborating to influence the passing of a statewide keg registration law.