Moreover, prevention, treatment, and enforcement activities are commonly enacted at the local level (Gruenewald et al. 1997). Therefore, community-level data on the impact of alcohol use that take into consideration the local economic, social, and policy context are key to guiding local decisionmaking and maximizing the effectiveness of prevention and selleck screening library intervention approaches. Community indicators have been used extensively for a variety of purposes by both researchers and community stakeholders. For communities, indicator data can be used to inform priority-setting agendas by identifying specific concerns within a community, guide policy and education initiatives, monitor community status on a particular measure over time or in comparison with other communities, and evaluate programs or policies (Besleme and Mullin 1997; Gabriel 1997; Gruenewald et al.
1997; Mansfield and Wilson 2008; Metzler et al. 2008). Local-level data also are critical for justifying requests for funding and provide a powerful tool for resource allocation within communities (Mansfield and Wilson 2008). For researchers, community indicators are central for improving knowledge of factors influencing community well-being, advancing innovative theoretical models and analytical approaches for use in research and prevention planning (for example, see Holder 1998a), and monitoring and evaluating community prevention/intervention initiatives (Metzler et al. 2008). This article provides an overview of community indicators of alcohol use and related harms, outlining common sources of community indicator data and highlighting the various challenges of collecting data on alcohol at the community level.
The literature on community indicators of alcohol use and harms is expansive, spanning a large number of disciplines and extending back for numerous decades. As such, it is beyond the scope of this article to provide a comprehensive review of all the literature and measures pertaining to community indicators on alcohol. Rather, this article provides background information relevant to the use of community indicators in general and in relation to alcohol use and harms, providing examples of some of the most common measures used by alcohol researchers.
In addition, the article mentions notable methodological and technological advances that have characterized this field of study over the past few decades, while highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by researchers and community stakeholders interested in assessing alcohol use and alcohol-related harm at the local level. This article draws on extensive knowledge regarding community indicator data on alcohol use and harms that has emerged from key community-based intervention AV-951 trials, such as the Saving Lives project led by Hingson (Hingson et al.