Multiple federal agencies play a role in preventing underage drinking. According to a recent report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) (2001) that reviewed federal funding targeted at preventing underage drinking, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Labor, Defense, Treasury, Agriculture, and Interior, as well as the Executive Office of the White House and the Corporation for National Service funded efforts that include underage alcohol use within broader mandates that target alcohol and other drug use. Of the total amount reported ($1.09 billion), almost all ($1.01 billion) included alcohol as part of a larger undifferentiated category relating to alcohol and other drug use; thus, it was not possible to determine what portion of the funds were targeted specifically to alcohol prevention activities. A relatively small proportion—less than 7 percent of the total amount–in three federal departments both had a specific focus on alcohol and identified youth or youth and the broader community as the specific target population.
Specifically, the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Transportation reported a combined $71.1 million focusing on alcohol and youth or alcohol and youth and the broader community. According to the GAO report, within HHS, resources are split between the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of HHS resources that specifically target underage drinking are in NIAAA, (part of the National Institutes of Health) that “conducts and supports biomedical and behavioral research in order to provide science-based approaches to the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism (General Accounting Office, 2001, p. 11).” The GAO report provides no specific information about how these funds are used to prevent underage drinking; NIAAA staff report that the preponderance of their resources are used for research. Research is primarily investigator-initiated and includes such topics as the effectiveness of various media campaigns; education interventions, and environmental strategies, as well as research on the epidemiology and causes of underage drinking.
NIAAA also has supported two notable efforts to influence local action. The first is a comprehensive effort to review approaches to drinking on college campuses, which resulted in the publication of A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges (NIAAA, 2002) which outlines strategies for addressing drinking on college campuses. NIAAA is currently in the process of conducting regional meetings to disseminate the