The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released today an interactive online dashboard, “Alcohol & the Public’s Health in North Carolina,” which provides alcohol-related information on all 100 counties. Assembled by the Chronic Disease and Injury Section of the Division of Public Health, the dashboard was developed in response to requests from DHHS’ public health partners who have asked for more accessible data related to excessive alcohol use.
The dashboard’s release, which coincides with Governor Roy Cooper’s proclamation designating April as Alcohol Awareness Month in North Carolina, consolidates state and national data from the Centers for Disease Control around excessive alcohol use and its related harms. It provides clear information on topics such as consumption data, public health impact and recommendations on strategies to reduce excessive drinking.
The third leading preventable cause of death in North Carolina, excessive drinking has been trending upward based on data from 2012-2017. The CDC defines excessive drinking as binge drinking (4-5 drinks or more in one sitting by women and men, respectively), heavy drinking (8-15 drinks per week for women and men, respectively), and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21. Nine out of 10 excessive drinkers are not dependent on alcohol but may not realize that excessive drinking is associated with increased risky behavior, violence, suicide, homicide, vehicular accidents and multiple chronic diseases.
“Excessive drinking can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems,” said State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Tilson, M.D., MPH. “Making these data widely available will help citizens and their community leaders develop effective strategies to address this rising public health problem.”
In 2017, the most recent annual data available, an estimated 4,000 people in North Carolina died from alcohol-related causes. Of those, 1,700 were due to short-term, or acute alcohol-related causes, including motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, risky sexual behavior and alcohol poisoning; and 2,300 were related to long-term or chronic alcohol attributable causes, including high blood pressure, liver disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.
“The state and county level data in the dashboard provide a powerful tool for community coalitions and public health practitioners alike to educate North Carolinians on the harmful effects of excessive drinking,” said Susan Kansagra, M.D., Chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section. “The dashboard will help bring awareness to the impacts of excessive alcohol use in our state.”
Printable county-level data are available for emergency department visits due to alcohol, motor vehicle crashes, alcohol-related deaths and the estimated economic cost due to excessive alcohol consumption. The dashboard also includes information on alcohol outlet density and describes the relationship between alcohol access and alcohol consumption, which is associated with negative health outcomes and societal cost.
The Division of Public Health's Chronic Disease and Injury Section, along with local health departments and other partners, works to reduce death and disabilities related to chronic disease and injury. For more information go to: https://publichealth.nc.gov/chronicdiseaseandinjury.