FASD prevention in northern Canada

New article profiles FASD prevention research

Amy Salmon and Sterling Clarren, members of the Canada Northwest FASD Research Network, have an article that was published last week on FASD diagnosis and prevention research in northern Canada.

Salmon and Clarren provide some interesting history on FASD research in Canada. They comment: “For over thirty years, prevention efforts were assumed to be clear, uncomplicated and achievable: warning pregnant women of the hazards of alcohol consumption would lead to consistent alcohol avoidance, and placing those with FASD in programs for people with disabilities would maximize their outcomes. The accumulated experiences of clinicians, women, families and people living with FASD have challenged this assumption.”

The article profiles two research initiatives related to the diagnosis and prevention of FASD. Members of our Network Action Team are involved with the prevention initiative. The article describes: “A team of researchers and service providers in the Northwest Territories has been working since July 2009 to develop a research project on the prevention of FASD that explores the relationships between experiences of trauma and alcohol-use patterns in northern Indigenous communities.” The article also explores the importance of and strategies for developing North-South collaborations.

If you’re interested in some history on alcohol use in northern communities or epidemiological data, you might want check out a recent article by Gina Muckle and colleagues. They describe how the introduction to alcohol to indigenous groups in Canada can be traced back to the Hudson Bay region during the seventeenth century when European fur traders used alcohol as gifts and to obtain furs. They comment: “Explanations for the contemporary high rates of alcohol use among Aboriginal peoples pertain to a wide array of domains, including biology, culture, local community, learned behavior, psychological distress, and political as well as economic and historical factors.”

In their study, they interviewed 208 Inuit women from Arctic Quebec at midpregnancy, and at 1 and 11 months postpartum. They comment: “Surprisingly, alcohol use and binge drinking are associated with higher SES [socioeconomic status] and greater acculturation to national Canadian culture in this sample, as indicated by less crowded living conditions and greater mastery of English or French. Thus, by contrast to other Aboriginal groups, younger women with lower SES do not appear to be the most appropriate target group for prevention in this population.” They explore the role of restricted access to the sale of alcohol in Nunavik and “dry” communities in understanding this finding.


Muckle, G., Laflamme, D., Gagnon, J., Boucher, O., Jacobson, J. L. and Jacobson, S. W. (2011). Alcohol, Smoking, and Drug Use Among Inuit Women of Childbearing Age During Pregnancy and the Risk to Children. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35: 1081–1091. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01441.x

Salmon, A. and Clarren, S.K. (2011). Developing effective, culturally appropriate avenues to FASD diagnosis and prevention in northern Canada. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, published online 29.08.2011. PMID: 21878184. Download the free full-text here.

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