“A Teratogen Is….” Campaign from Yukon

teratogen pop quiz

The Yukon Department of Health and Social Services, working with the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of Yukon (FASSY) and Partners for Children, began an awareness campaign to raise awareness about teratogens, including alcohol on International FASD Awareness Day (September 9, 2014). (A teratogen is a substance, organism or process that may harm a baby during pregnancy. Teratogens can be diseases, medications, drugs, alcohol or environmental exposures.)

The online ads take the form of a pop quiz and a pictographic pronunciation guide to make the point that many substances can cause birth defects, from alcohol to certain viruses such as rubella (German measles).

The press release (September 8, 2014) states that the initiative is intended to “emphasize the community’s role in healthy pregnancies.”

Jeddie Russell, supervisor for education and prevention with Alcohol and Drug Services, commented in an news interview that “the campaign is innovative because it does not only target pregnant women, as FASD campaigns do typically… That target is not wide enough. Fetal alcohol syndrome is not about one woman drinking, it’s not about one couple being irresponsible, it’s about everybody – grandmothers, aunts, uncles, brothers – knowing that alcohol is a teratogen.” (See the news article: Yukoners mark FASD awareness day, September 10, 2014, Yukon News)

An editorial by John Thompson credits the Yukon government for putting resources into addressing FASD, such as a new supportive housing facility for individuals with FASD and a study looking at the prevalence of FASD in individuals in corrections facilities. But he critiques the new campaign:

“Quirky humour has its place, but this seems to fall flat, given the gravity of the problem being addressed.

And, however well-meaning the employees at the Department of Health may be, it would also be hard to imagine a more impenetrable approach to the subject. Perhaps in the next phase, the whole thing could be written in Latin?

And what is being accomplished? Well, the general public will soon be armed with a completely unnecessary piece of jargon, to say what everyone already knows: alcohol damages unborn babies. The better subject would be: what are we going to do to prevent mothers, who already know this, from drinking anyhow?”

See the editorial: This FASD campaign is a flop, September 12, 2014, Yukon News.


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