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A few weeks ago, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released a report that took a look at 10 different evidence-based alcohol policies designed to reduce individual and societal harm from alcohol misuse and gave each province a score based on the degree to which each has implemented these policies.

Alcohol policies, when widely implemented, have considerable potential to reduce the health and social harms from alcohol, including influencing rates of FASD.

Some of the policy areas particularly relevant to FASD prevention that were examined include:

  • Marketing and advertising
  • Screening, Brief Intervention and Referrals
  • Warning Labels and Signs

The research team commented on how evidence from more than several hundred empirical studies has shown that the use of screening, brief interventions and referrals (SBIR) in health care settings is an effective method for reducing alcohol consumption and associated problems. They looked at the inclusion of SBIR in provincial strategies and plans (e.g., encouraging health care providers to screen for alcohol misuse with pregnant women or in the general population), fee for service codes which allow physicians to receive payment for conducting SBIR, and the inclusion of SBIR in health professional guidelines.

The report found that British Columbia and Ontario had perfect to almost perfect scores while other provinces had little or no activity on SBIR. Notably, British Columbia has a fee for service code specific to SBIR.

While the authors comment on the limited evidence of effectiveness for warning labels when used in isolation, they comment that warning labels on alcohol containers and point of sale warning signs are a good policy practice because of their potential to raise awareness of alcohol as a health issue and to support the adoption of other more directly effective policies.

While Ontario has legislated mandatory warning signs for both off-premise and on-premise outlets with a clear and direct health message pertaining to the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant, most other provinces do have strong health oriented warning messages about alcohol use, including alcohol use during pregnancy.

You can view the press release here (March 6, 2013) and download the full report Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms and Costs in Canada: A Comparison of Provincial Policies here.

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For more on alcohol policy and FASD prevention, see earlier posts: