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Oakland County

April 17, 2014

County contest focuses on alcohol awareness

ROCHESTER — Teens who experiment with alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent when they are older, compared to people who wait until age 20.

That’s according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. For that reason, officials say, education and prevention are critically important to reducing alcohol-related problems and alcoholism.

In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month, the Oakland County Health Division is hosting an infographic/poster contest and inviting Oakland County high school students to creatively convey the consequences and impacts of binge drinking on youth and teens. The contest is open to all Oakland County high school students, and all entries must be turned in by 11:59 p.m. April 27. Those who participate will have a chance to win  $100, $50 or $25 iTunes gift cards and will also earn community service hours.

“We’re looking ahead to the season of prom and graduation, and really trying to get our high school students engaged in a campaign where it might bring to their conscious some of the dangers of alcohol — specifically binge drinking,” said Kathy Forzley, manager/health officer of the Oakland County Health Division.

Binge drinking — when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short period — is common among youth, according to county officials. It’s the most common form of excessive alcohol use and is defined as consuming four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more drinks for men. A drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of regular beer or a wine cooler, 8 ounces of malt liquor, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor.

About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth is in the form of binge drinking, and that contributes to more than 4,300 deaths among youth younger than 21 in the United States each year, county officials say. About two in three high school students who drink do so to the point of intoxication, and about one in five high school girls binge drink.

“The contest is a really great way for a high school students to research the subject and become aware of that data and the information about the dangers of binge drinking. We also believe this creates a dialogue with families and teachers, and their peers at the high school. The more we talk about these issues and we talk about the dangers, the greater the awareness and the better the outcome, in terms of encouraging teens not to drink,” Forzley said.

Students’ contest entries should educate people about binge drinking. Participants have the option of creating an infographic — a visual representation of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly — or a poster.

“Infographics have become really popular in the last couple of years with ways for people and agencies to disperse data and information. Kids are always ahead of the times, so we found out that a lot of them already know what infographics are and how to display the information clearly,” said Trisha Zizunbo, an Oakland County public health educator.

“It’s a much more interesting and memorable way of looking at data,” Forzley said.

The contest winner will be chosen by Oakland County Health Division Public Health Oakland Facebook fans, who will vote by liking their favorite entry on Facebook April 28-May 4. Winners will be announced May 5.

For contest rules, visit  www.oakgov.com/health.