The long-term impact of the Israeli national program to reduce alcohol problem drinking among children and youth: a nine-year follow-up 2010-2019
Renewed conceptual frameworks focusing on well-being, resiliency and positive youth development, have caused a major shift in the focus of policy and intervention strategies aimed at reducing adolescent risk behaviors. The World Health Organization - Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (WHO-HBSC) cross national survey, has monitored these changes throughout the past three decades in over 45 countries in Europe and North America. While Israel has usually shown relatively low and stable rates of adolescent smoking, drinking and drug use, the rates of problem drinking increased dramatically during the 15-year period of 1994 till 2009. The rate of binge drinking in the past 30 days for 11-15 years old teens tripled from 6.2% in 1994 to over 20.6% in 2009. Findings were cleverly disseminated to the press, the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) and to targeted cabinet members. Consequently, the government funded the development and implementation of a comprehensive, long-term national program to reduce problem alcohol drinking among young people. The program was funded and implemented in three consecutive stages – 2010-2012, 2012-2014 and 2014-2016 and was coordinated by the Israel Anti-Drug Authority. Activities included: implementing a comprehensive national strategy, building and maintaining partnerships with all relevant national agencies and local authorities, developing consistent and coherent messages, implementing effective national media campaigns, developing, passing and enforcing a host of new legislation, implementing a wide variety of age-specific school-based programs, implementing comprehensive community-based intervention strategies at the local settings, and more. The impact of the national program on national rates of youth binge drinking was monitored by the HBSC survey throughout the program period and till the recent survey of 2019. Findings from the HBSC study show that as a result of this national intensive program, binge drinking is Israeli youth dropt from 20.6% in 2009 to 12.4% in 2011, to 10.7% in 2014 and finally in 2019 to 6.2%. All in all, binge drinking dropped to about one third (!) of its magnitude in 2009, prior to the implementation of the national program. The paper presents findings of the evaluation study that followed the program and discusses the unique characteristic of the program that led to this remarkable success in reducing rates of on a national level.