As summer approaches, many communities will host local events, fairs and festivals, which may present opportunities for youth substance use. Lauren Robson, Coalition Coordinator at SAFE in Juneau County, recently shared her coalition’s method for preparing for and conducting environmental scans at these events to assess substance use promotion and behavior.
“We originally planned to conduct these environmental scans during our intervention mapping in 2019. As we were working to identify problems, risk factors and local conditions for our logic model, we identified youth alcohol use as something we wanted to address. One of our local conditions is that alcohol is promoted at public events where youth are present,” said Lauren.
To begin this process, SAFE worked with their county’s undersheriff to identify five major fairs and festivals scheduled for this summer that are very well-attended and tend to have a culture of excess alcohol use and over-serving. Next, they sent letters to the fair and festival committees to make them aware that the scans would take place.
Volunteers that signed up to conduct these scans were given a 45-minute training to cover the assessment form that they would be filling out. Since these volunteers were granted wristbands that would allow for entry into the event, as well as beer tents where alcohol was present, volunteers were asked to sign a code of conduct so that the coalition was represented in a positive and responsible manner.
“We assigned two volunteers per each event so they could discuss what they saw and make accurate observations. One of the things coalition members agreed to when they signed the code of conduct is to not engage with the bartenders or alcohol servers during the scan. In an effort to not engage with the subjects and alter their behavior, we refrain from asking questions, such as how many ounces the cups hold for mixed drinks.”
“We also found that we needed more time than we originally thought to get a thorough scan. We planned for it to take 20-30 minutes to complete, but we soon realized after our first event that it takes closer to an hour.”
At the end of the summer, SAFE plans to share their findings with each fair and festival committee about what they saw and their recommendations for how to improve.
“My one piece of advice for coalitions looking to replicate this process in their communities, aside from factoring in more time for the scans to be completed and creating a code of conduct, is to use an electronic device to fill out the assessment form. It’s slightly more discrete, which affects less of the behavior of the subjects and also attracts less attention.”