THURSDAY, Sept. 4, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- The more places that sell alcohol in a neighborhood, the greater the number of injuries that occur to children who live there, a new study reports.
The findings, published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, are based on analyzing data from 1,646 California zip code areas and local hospital discharges for childhood injuries, assaults and injuries related to child abuse from 2000.
"First, greater densities of off-premise alcohol outlets may increase the frequency of drinking among parents at home, undermining their ability to adequately supervise their children's activities," Bridget Freisthler, an assistant professor in the department of social welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a news release issued by the journal's publisher. "Second, greater densities may increase the number of people who travel in and out of the neighborhood to shop or dine at restaurants, making it more difficult for residents to know who lives in the area and who is just conducting business there. Thus, other adults in the area may be less likely to intervene when they see unsupervised children playing."
The study was a joint project between UCLA and the Prevention Research Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, where Freisthler is an affiliated research scientist.
"This study shows that the effects of high concentrations of alcohol outlets are more far reaching than previously thought," she said. "Specific findings indicate that costs associated with injuries among children could be reduced if outlet densities were more carefully controlled. It is important to emphasize that these injuries are only one measurable outcome of the kind of lack of supervision and support that seems to occur in these disordered neighborhoods with high alcohol-outlet densities."
Richard Scribner, D'Angelo Professor of Alcohol Research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, agreed. "One's neighborhood environment determines the number and type of risks a resident of a particular neighborhood will be exposed to. This study supports the conceptual model that views the neighborhood environment as an essential component in contributing to population health."
Freisthler said she hopes her findings will lead to tougher decisions about licensing and locating alcohol outlets in neighborhoods.
"They affect the quality of life, the relationships among neighbors, levels of crime, and the safety of all of us. Obviously, we want policy makers to pay attention to these findings. But they are also important for average citizens to understand," she said.
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