Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA)



Developer: Dr. Alexander C. Wagenaar, University of Minnesota, Alcohol Epidemiology Program and the Youth Leadership Institute

Partners: Funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

Program Overview: Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) is a community based project that aims to reduce alcohol consumption among young people through reducing availability of alcohol to young people from commercial and noncommercial sources, and to change community views regarding acceptance and tolerance of underage alcohol consumption.

Program Design: The CMCA program relies on a community organizing approach. The program was led by local organizers in each of the 15 communities selected for participation.

Organizers followed the following 7-step process:

  1. Assessing the community
  2. Creating a core leadership group
  3. Developing a plan of action
  4. Building a mass base of support
  5. Implementing the action plan
  6. Maintain the organization and institutional change
  7. Evaluating changes1

This process was used in an attempt to limit availability of alcohol to young people, which also included efforts to change ordinances and policies, enhance enforcement efforts, and increase media attention related to underage alcohol consumption.

Evaluation: The evaluation of CMCA was designed as a combination randomized community trial and time-series. 15 communities in the Midwestern United States were randomly selected to participate in the evaluation (8 controls, 8 intervention). Pre and post-test questionnaires were used at the beginning of the intervention, and again after 3 years of the program to assess changes over time. Data were collected through school administered surveys of 9th and 12th grade students in 1992 and 12th grade only in 1995. Additional telephone surveys were conducted from 18-20 year olds. In order to estimate purchase attempts surveys were conducted in on and off-premise retail establishments in all 15 communities; alcohol retailers were also surveyed by phone.

Key findings2Results of the evaluation showed declines in youth access to alcohol.

  • There was a significant overall effect of CMCA for on-site establishments (results were positive, but insignificant for off-site retail establishments)
  • There was also a significant positive program effect on youth access to alcohol for 18-20 year olds; however, while a positive effect was observed among high school students it did not reach statistical significance

Program Website: www.yli.org/cmcatraining


1. Wagenaar, A. C., Gehan, J. P., Jones-Webb, R., Toomey, T. L., & Forster, J. L. (1999). Communities mobilizing for change on alcohol: Lessons and results from a 15-community randomized trial. Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 27(3), 315-326.

2. Wagenaar, A. C., Murray, D. M., Gehan, J. P., Molfson, M., Forster, J. L., Toomey, T. L., et al. ((2000).Communities mobilizing for change on alcohol: Outcomes from a randomized community trial.Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 61(1), 85-94.

Target Audience: High school (15-18 years old), University/young adults (18-21 years)  Issues: Underage Drinking  Setting: Licensed premises, Local government/ law enforcement departments, Media (including social media), School clubs or community organizations  Approach: Community or Environmental

Target Audience: High school (15-18 years old), Middle school (10-14 years), University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Underage Drinking
Setting: Licensed premises, Local government/ law enforcement departments, Media (including social media), School clubs or community organizations
Approach: Community or Environmental
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