Binge drinking in Wisconsin is just their culture, right? Except in one county.

Wisconsin is a ridiculously fun state, known for things like:

Image from Dear Clara on Tumblr.


and...

Image from MakeMeSocial.

Unfortunately, they're also known for this kind of behavior:

GIF from "Will & Grace."

But no, really. It can get a little out of hand.

Based on information found at FlowingData.com.

Marquette County outmatched the rest of Wisconsin in binge-drinking rates.

Back in 2005, they had a higher rate of binge drinking than many other counties in Wisconsin — they were at 28%. The average for the state was 25%.

In addition to binge drinking being seriously dangerous, it also costs Wisconsin big time.

Based on research in this University of Wisconsin study.

That's equal to about $1,200 extra per taxpayer, per year when you combine taxes, health care costs, and other losses.

Marquette County made that figure plummet faster than a Wisconsin winter windchill.

By 2012, instead of going up by 5% like the rest of Wisconsin did, Marquette county reduced theirs by 15%.

Chart created by Nancy Fullman and Ellen Squires of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Used with permission from Solutions Journalism.

So what ARE they doing differently than other counties?

It's hard to point to any one thing as the definitive measure that turned things around, but some think one specific program had a lot to do with it.

Marquette County launched a Healthy Communities Healthy Youth initiative in 2003.

Yes, 2003. But public health programs often take time to be fully implemented and then see results, so it is reasonable to think that with increased focus, it actually did have significant impact during the period monitored. Here are just a few key points of it:

  • Bartender training programs to prevent over-serving patrons
  • Testing the compliance of outlets that potentially sell alcohol to minors
  • Marketing aimed at changing binge-drinking culture
  • Reaching future drinkers before they begin binge-drinking behavior, via their parents

The program serves as a great resource for young people, parents, and anyone who serves alcohol, providing concrete guidance (in the form of training, investment, and helpful tips) to encourage responsible behavior.

For instance, the Healthy Communities Healthy Youth site offers parents ideas for how to text with their teens when those teens have gone to a party.

The suggested texts are organized by how early or late in the evening it is.

"Early evening:

I trust you to make good decisions 2nite.

Late evening:

Be careful coming home. I know you made good decisions, but be cautious of others who aren't as smart as you!"





Here's another example of their advice in action:

The program is a great example of how strong proposals that encourage responsible, supported decision making can make a real, tangible difference to a culture AND an economy.

Marquette County isn't yet satisfied with this initial 15% drop though.

They have plans to launch additional efforts and keep chipping away at those binge-drinking numbers. Because it's way more fun to "Drink Wisconsibly" and NOT pay $1,200 a year extra, amirite?

Image used with permission by ShopWisconsibly.

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