Raising awareness on the harms of alcohol for women

Alcohol is know to have it’s dangers; from developmental delays if exposed too young, to lowered inhibitions often leading to risky behaviors, the harms it can cause are no secret, and often seen as worth it for the relaxation a small drink can bring. However, as research and technology move forward, new findings often come to light. Included in this are the recent publications that show how drinking can be much more dangerous for woman than men. Examples include higher prevalence of liver disease, increased dependency issues, and the critical issue of growing rates of breast cancer among women who drink regularly compared to those who don’t.

Beyond the extensive problems themselves these issues can bring,  there is an additional pressing matter in that  often these risks aren’t as well known as others. Without having all of the facts of the dangers of the substance, it’s not completely possible to make an informed decision regarding alcohol.  There are a variety of tactics that can be enacted to educate the population, and seeing how crucial these concerns are, it’s time to implement some of these changes.  

In a 2018 analysis, effectiveness of mass media campaigns targeting alcohol were assessed. Looking at 24 campaigns all placed throughout different areas in developed countries, testing for effectiveness was evaluated by how well consumers recalled information and if any steps or actions were taken that could be directly related to the issue of drinking. The campaigns mainly focused on distribution through materials and media in the form of TV and radio adverts. However, many also utilized billboards, social media ads, and ads along transportation modes and routes.

The results of the analysis showed that while individuals were not necessarily changing their drinking behaviors or attitudes after being exposed to the campaigns, they were recalling the information provided even after substantial amounts of time had passed since being exposed. The graph, summarizes the most notable results of the campaigns after each had aired. Awareness, understanding and recollection were present after in almost each campaign. While none of the studies focused on spreading awareness for the link between alcohol and breast cancer, or any other adverse effects for women, they are effectively showing that these media blitz  advertisements can still work towards making the population aware of certain health issues they may be facing. 

Beyond traditional media efforts that public health organizations can take, there are newer modes that I believe could help spread the issue surrounding this link. Information hidden under the disguise of an internet quiz, listicle, or even a meme. For example, everyone is familiar with Buzzfeed completely pointless and sometimes sponsored quizzes. Mattel sponsored one entitled “Which Barbie doll are you” and the quiz went on to be viewed over 1 million times with almost 200,000 shares on Facebook.

While the idea may be unheard of, if a health related organization put out content in a way that seems maybe less threatening and more Gen z friendly, for example a sponsored quiz or listicle “Are your drinking habits healthy” with a short series of questions that could indicate a need for further research on the users part. It’s private, not intimidating, and exposure could reach a lot of younger women who are coming of drinking age. These sponsored ‘articles’ could be just a small stepping stone towards legitimate information and could provide additional websites or sources to visit for additional information.  It might seem odd and unprofessional in a way but if the goal is to increase awareness around the link between alcohol and breast cancer, and it is, then this is simply another method to increase public awareness for all women in all age ranges. 

Public health organizations and officials who are trying to educate on the dangers of drinking for women should implement some traditional informational techniques, such as media targeted campaigns, while attempting strategies to connect with younger populations. These campaigns need to be targeted, they need to address the issues plainly, and these to be present widespread in spaces where women will access. Through this education, women well at least have the chance to be better informed and hopefully make better decisions regarding long term health. While there is a separate issue of actually mobilizing these populations to change their behaviors around some of the risk factors of alcohol, first and foremost should be the issue of spreading accurate information. 


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