A new report from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) in collaboration with a group of researchers and community partners examines the significant increase of alcohol-involved deaths in Iowa since 2008 and offers recommendations and strategies to help address the issue at the state and community levels.
IDPH’s Bureau of Substance Abuse established the Alcohol-Involved Deaths Workgroup in 2019 to better understand a concerning 10-year trend in alcohol-involved deaths among Iowans aged 45 and older. The workgroup included the University of Iowa College of Public Health, Aging Resources of Central Iowa, Alliance of Coalitions for Change, Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, and the Iowa Department on Aging.
Gilbert discusses alcohol report on River to River
On a recent episode of River to River, Paul Gilbert, associate professor of community and behavioral health, and other guests discussed the findings in the report Addressing Alcohol-Involved Deaths in Iowa, as well as the potential impact of the report’s policy recommendations on Iowans and Iowa businesses.
According to the report that the workgroup produced, alcohol-involved deaths increased by more than 73% in Iowa between 2008 and 2019 and men aged 45+ are 2 times more likely to die an alcohol involved death than women. The full report is available online at the IDPH website.
Paul Gilbert, associate professor of community and behavioral health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, served on the workgroup and says that there are likely many things contributing to this trend. “Research has shown that people respond to stressful situations by increasing alcohol use,” he says. “We know that people have increased their alcohol use during the pandemic and combined with isolation and ease of access, it has had a major impact on people’s drinking habits, making the drinking trends even more worrisome.”
The report also highlights several evidence-based strategies that have proven to be effective in reducing excessive alcohol use, and in turn could reduce alcohol-related deaths. These include limiting alcohol outlet density, strengthening compliance monitoring, increasing alcohol prices, increasing public health surveillance, implementing problematic use screenings, and continuing public education.
According to Stacie Schroeder, director of the North Fayette Valley Community Coalition, the recommendations and strategies are good starting points for individual communities to begin addressing the issue. “Alcohol use has become very much the norm for many Iowans and looking at changing that can seem overwhelming,” she says. “Understanding how alcohol affects the health of those around us can assist in finding ways to prevent future diseases and conditions attributable to alcohol.”
Gilbert says that the workgroup hopes the report will bring awareness to the issue and serve as a conversation-starter for policy makers. “The report shows that high levels of alcohol use have become a problem in Iowa, and we hope it is a useful tool for community members, business leaders, and policy makers to use to make evidence-based, informed decisions about how to address this trend.”