What is Environmental Prevention?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Environmental prevention consists of public policies to reduce the harm caused by alcohol abuse. Organizations promoting environmental prevention aim to educate the public about the negative effects of alcohol and encourage responsible drinking. They develop strategies to raise awareness of the social, health, and economic risks associated with substance abuse. Making treatment programs available and affordable is typically included in environmental prevention goals.

Most environmental prevention tactics focus on alcohol because it is legal, popular, and readily available. Alcohol is used for relaxation, in social settings, and to celebrate milestones in a person’s life. It also provides economic benefits through taxes placed on alcohol sales. Policy intervention strategies work to balance the benefits of alcohol with its negative impacts on society.

These policies commonly promote laws that protect children from access to alcohol and make retail establishments responsible for obeying these laws. In some regions, environmental prevention refers to placing limits on when alcohol may be sold in stores and served to patrons in restaurants and bars. Some areas prohibit alcohol sales on Sundays and set a time when bars and restaurants must stop serving drinks. Sporting event venues might also cut off alcohol sales before a game ends to discourage drinking and driving.


Educational campaigns typically focus on raising awareness of the health risks of alcohol abuse and the cost to treat alcohol-related diseases. Environmental prevention commonly supports early intervention for abusers and promotes treatment options accessible in each community. These campaigns may define binge drinking and explain how alcohol abuse harms health.

Reducing the number of drunken driving accidents is another public policy goal. Alcohol environmental prevention strategies mirror campaigns used to increase seat belt usage and educate the public about the health risks of using tobacco products. These efforts commonly focus on how alcohol impairs motor skills and how it may lead to injury or death if abused.

When creating public policies to address the ill effects of alcohol, organizations commonly conduct surveys to gauge where efforts should be focused. For example, a Canadian study found 80 percent of people over the age of 15 had used alcohol in the prior year. Similar surveys of high school students might reveal information to address underage drinking and strengthen efforts to discourage alcohol at teen parties. Some regions enact laws that penalize adults who serve alcohol to minors in their home.


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