Staying Principled

Click here to listen to the blog (3:54).

In 2009 a group of women gathered in Victoria BC Canada to discuss how we would approach the development of a network on FASD prevention. We were researchers, policy advocates, service providers, community activists and those with Indigenous wisdom – all with a commitment to seeing and acting on how social determinants affect women’s health and substance use, and the ability for them influence the conditions of their lives.

Out of our discussion emerged a consensus on 10 fundamental components or principles for approaching FASD prevention from a women’s health determinants perspective. Now, in 2022, we have updated that consensus statement, so that those interested in FASD prevention are directed to new evidence and resources. The update is a testament to the soundness of the original principles and to the ever-growing expertise of the network participants and international partners. We hope this will empower those working on FASD prevention to continue to use and build upon this principle-based approach.

The principles foundational to approaching FASD prevention are:

Respectful – Grounding prevention initiatives in respectful relationships is vital to reduce stigma and discrimination.

Relational – It can be a transformative experience for women who use substances to experience care that aligns with their needs, views them as a whole person, and offers respect, understanding, and authentic collaboration.

Self-Determining Health care and other support systems can facilitate self-determined care by supporting women’s autonomy, decision making, control of resources, and including exercise of their reproductive rights.

Women+ Centred Women+ centered care moves beyond a fetus/child-centered approach, and focuses on fostering safety and empowerment when providing support to women and gender diverse individuals who are pregnant or parenting.

Harm Reduction Oriented A harm reduction oriented approach focuses on safer substance use but also on reducing broader harms, including retaining or regaining custody of children, access to adequate and stable housing, and the challenges of poverty, food insecurity, and intimate partner violence.

Trauma- and Violence-Informed Trauma- and violence-informed services integrate awareness of the impacts of trauma on health into all aspects of service delivery including wellness support and prevention of secondary trauma.

Health Promoting – Holistic, health promoting responses to the complex and interconnected influences on women’s health and substance use are vital to FASD prevention.

Culturally Safe – Respect for individuals’ values, worldviews, and preferences in any service encounter is important, as is respect for and accommodation of a woman’s desire for culturally-specific healing.

Supportive of Mothering – FASD prevention efforts must recognize women’s desire to be good mothers and the importance of supporting women’s choices and roles as mothers.

Uses a FASD-informed and Disability Lens – Uses strengths-based responses, makes person-centered accommodations, and ensures equity of access to health and social services.

We hope you will find the Consensus Statement with these principles and supporting sources – journal articles, reports and infographics – an inspiration for action.

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