Preventing Underage Drinking

Outside of the hospital walls, Lurie Children's is working to prevent underage drinking.

Why this needs our attention

Underage drinking, particularly consumption of alcohol by school age youth, is a serious concern for parents, schools and communities. Often overlooked, alcohol is the most commonly used drug by Illinois 8th to 12th grade students.1

At Lurie Children's, we are particularly troubled by the impact that alcohol has on youth. Not only does underage drinking interfere with overall health, it increases the risk for physical and sexual assault, injury and death. Prevention of underage drinking requires a community level approach.

What Lurie Children's is doing to address it

Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago Teens (PAACT) is a multi-agency coalition convened by Lurie Children's to reduce underage drinking and promote health and wellness by engaging Chicago's communities and youth in prevention strategies that work.

Communications Campaign: I got this! is PAACT's city-wide communication and community engagement campaign to prevent underage drinking in 8th–10th grade youth in Chicago. The campaign focuses on youth and their parents/guardians. I got this! is grounded in data from the Illinois Youth Survey showing that the vast majority of youth are not drinking alcohol, and that the majority of their parents are talking with them—and setting rules—about not drinking. In other words: they're already doing the right thing. By elevating and celebrating what youth and their parents/guardians are already doing, I got this! will encourage these behaviors to be even more broadly used and consistently applied, and will bolster resilience in youth that can prevent or reduce underage alcohol use over time.

School Policy: PAACT is also working to improve Chicago Public School (CPS) policies around alcohol and substance use. The goal of PAACT's school policy effort is to bring school substance use policies in alignment with recent reforms to reduce the use of punitive measures, such as suspension and expulsion, in favor of more holistic responses that keep students in school while addressing their social and emotional needs. PAACT's school policy strategy also includes providing guidance and resources to CPS on how to connect youth to intervention, treatment, and other support services.

Community and Youth Engagement: PAACT works with community-based organizations, health care and mental health providers, advocates, researchers, and others to share strategies that are working and develop promising new ones. PAACT partnered with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) to conduct a youth-led study to help inform policy change around underage drinking in CPS.


  • The expected reach of the I got this! campaign will be vast: it will generate approximately 36.4 million impressions, reaching 30% of teens and 38% of parents of teens across the city of Chicago.
  • PAACT is involved in the recruitment and administration of the Illinois Youth Survey (IYS). The IYS is a self-report survey administered in schools to gather data on health and social indicators including substance use patterns and attitudes, which can be used to tailor prevention messages and approaches for youth. It measures the key risk and protective factors that strongly contribute to community-wide substance use rates and provides essential data to secure and maintain state and national prevention funding.


Rachel Foote, MPH
Manager, Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago Teens (PAACT)

See also: Preventing Violence


1 Data on alcohol use by Chicago 8th to 12th grade students are drawn from the 2016 Illinois Youth Survey.