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Prevention Plenary Opening: Moira Plant and Nancy Poole introduce group from Australia

In 7 years, the FASD International Conference has grown to become a truly international event with presenters from six continents and from international health organizations such as the World Health Organization. Current research on clinical topics we’ve come to expect, like prevalence, diagnosis, and neurodevelopment outcomes, were featured this year along with newer topics like biomarkers and epigenetics (See some of the video recorded conference presentations here).

It was the emphasis on prevention, and stigma that took center stage for many attendees. For the first time, there was a specialized prevention plenary – “FASD Prevention Research – State of the Evidence, and Plans for a Global Network” – developed by Nancy Poole (CanFASD; Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health) and Moira Plant (Alcohol & Health Research Unit, University of West England).  Using a model of prevention research used worldwide that Nancy first presented in a poster in 2009, researchers, advocates and birth mothers from around the world talked about where we are and where we need to go.

Watch for upcoming blogs in the next weeks for details on specific prevention presentations.

Objectives for the Prevention Plenary

The Prevention Plenary was divided into 4 areas of presentation and discussion that we will cover in a few posts in the next weeks:

  1. Community-wide FASD prevention with Indigenous communities
  2. International research on discussing alcohol with all women and their partners, and empowering professionals to have these conversations
  3. Research on reaching and engaging women and children at highest risk using approaches that are theory based, and have an equity lens
  4. Plans for international FASD prevention research infrastructure

 

For posts on past International FASD conferences, see:

The 5th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Special Session on FASD Prevention, January 14, 2013

Webcasts on 4th Annual International Conference

The World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe has published Prevention of harm caused by alcohol exposure in pregnancy: Rapid review and case studies from Member States.

who-coverIn this report it is stated that Europe has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world, and that the gender gap in drinking, and in binge drinking, among young people has narrowed.

Looking over the past decade, the report features a review of 29 research studies and details current FASD prevention efforts of Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden. Studies included in the report were based on Recommendation 2 of the WHO Guidelines for the identification and management of substance use and substance use disorder in pregnancy, which calls for prevention of alcohol consumption in the general population of pregnant women through brief interventions. Consequently, the review excluded studies of alcohol-dependent women.

For women who may become pregnant, interventions related to both risky drinking and contraception were reviewed, such as CHOICES, EARLY and BALANCE.

For pregnant women, interventions to abstain from or reduce alcohol use, or to raise awareness were reviewed. Two of the studies with pregnant women included their partners and showed positive results regarding women reducing their drinking and partners supporting non-drinking.

Case studies of prevention efforts from the 8 profiled countries describe national awareness campaigns; screening and specialized treatment in clinical practice guidelines; national strategy/policy planning and implementation; and post-partum support including for those affected by FASD.   The report features a table that illustrates country-specific levels of FASD awareness, which can assist in developing focused strategies.

For more on related topics, see earlier blogs:

DANISH CAMPAIGN SUGGESTS THAT EVERYONE “STICK A CORK IN IT” ON OCTOBER 11TH, October 11, 2012

SPECIALIZED TREATMENT AND CARE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN WITH SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEMS AND THEIR CHILDREN IN HAGA, GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN, November 15, 2012

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION RELEASES THE FIRST EVIDENCE-BASED GLOBAL GUIDELINES TO PREVENT AND TREAT SUBSTANCE USE BY PREGNANT WOMEN, April 28, 2014

GLOBAL STATUS REPORT ON ALCOHOL AND HEALTH 2014 – WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, July 24, 2014

PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING SCREENING AND BRIEF INTERVENTION FOR RISKY ALCOHOL USE: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR PRIMARY CARE PRACTICES FROM THE CDC, August 4, 2014

HOLISTIC AND SPECIALIZED SUPPORT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN: LEVEL 3 PREVENTION, November 21, 2016

thunder-bay-report-coverAs part of the work of the Family Health Program, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit has published results from a research project on best practices to preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancy. Alongside reviewing literature, they looked at practices both in their health unit and among local community programs and services, and at provincial public health standards.

Seven over-arching themes were identified for a multi-pronged approach to preventing FASD:

1.  Population Health Surveillance
2. Public Awareness
3. Public Programs
4. Education for Health Care and Social Service Providers
5. Screening and Intervention by Health Care and Social Services Providers
6. Partnerships
7. Policy/Government Directives (1)

The report targets gaps to be addressed within each of these themes. As an example, within “Public Programs” there is a call to expand or develop programming that is culturally based and that includes women’s partners, and within “Education” to replace generalized training and education with approaches that target specific provider needs.

The authors caution readers not to “dilute the alcohol and pregnancy focus” when incorporating recommendations into existing service structures, and stress that additional research and evidence of programming, policy, and partnerships is needed.

Download the full report here to read more about their research methods, findings and recommendations, and to explore linkages with the Ontario Public Health Standards for reproductive health.


REFERENCES
  1. Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Family Health Program. (2016). Effective interventions and strategies to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies. Thunder Bay, ON.

The College of New Caledonia (CNC) has developed a FASD-informed training curriculum to support their FASD informed guide and in response to the expressed needs of three national programs supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) that focus on healthy birth outcomes and healthy outcomes for children.

FASD Trauma Informed guide“Facilitating a Collaborative, Strength-based Approach to FASD Informed Practice:  Western Region BC” was developed following consultations with workers in The Community Action Program for Children (CAPC), the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP), and Aboriginal Head Start (AHS in BC). Workers and administrators wanted help in adjusting their practice of working with women, children and families to include FASD-informed approaches.

These trainings were delivered on-site to approximately 350 people during 2014-2016. Developed by Anne Guarasci and Barb Durban with funding from PHAC, the curriculum, in the form of PowerPoint presentations, has been refined for distribution and consists of three separate presentations each with a particular focus, but all include a primer on FASD including current diagnostic terminology.

1. “Supporting Marginalized Parents who may have FASD” — This presentation focuses on what causes FASD, how it is diagnosed, and who is at risk; the complex nature of prevention and why a holistic, relational approach is required; behavioural and cognitive cues that may indicate FASD; and, the fundamentals of an FASD-informed practice.

Empower guide2. “Strategies and Structures for Supporting Marginalized Women and Families who may have FASD” — Participants explore practices and communication skills that empower and support clients and build relationships; examine individual and agency perceptions, policies and structures in order to reduce barriers to relationship and services for clients; and, develop FASD-specific communication strategies. Client “compliance” issues are re-examined within the context of brain functioning. FASD diagnostic terminology and pathways to access assessment and diagnosis are reviewed.

3. “FASD Prevention” — Using a FASD-informed approach as described in CNC guides (1,2) and the work of Deb Rutman (3), this training builds on the 4 levels of prevention of FASD in Canada (4): awareness and health promotion; brief counseling with women and girls of childbearing age; specialized prenatal support; and postpartum support.  How FASD-informed and trauma-informed approaches overlap is explored along with many strategies for working with women, including those who may have FASD, such as building relationships and reducing barriers through reflective practice, Motivational Interviewing, harm reduction, and individualized services.

The FASD-informed practice training curricula is intended for training of program coordinators and administrators, new frontline workers and seasoned workers who may benefit from a refresher. A year-long evaluation of the training was conducted by Deborah Rutman, and the results will be available for presentation in this blog space, in the next few months.

For more about FASD-informed work, see earlier posts:


REFERENCES/SUGGESTED READING

  1. Guarasci, Anne (2013). FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs. Burns Lake, BC: College of New Caledonia – Lakes District Campus.
  2. Guarasci, Anne (2011). Empowering Front-Line Staff and Families Through a Collection of Lived Experiences: Supporting Women Who Have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Behaviours and Characteristics and/or Other Related Disabilities. Burns Lake, BC: College of New Caledonia – Lake District Campus.
  3. Rutman, D. (2011). Substance using women with FASD and FASD prevention: Voices of women with FASD: Promising approaches in substance use treatment and care for women with FASD. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria.
  4. Poole, Nancy A. (2008). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention: Canadian Perspectives. Public Health Agency of Canada: Ottawa, ON.

 

NDARC Guide

This new resource from the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia, is designed for all primary health care professions who see women in a broad range of health care service settings during the course of their practice.

The best practices guide builds on the evidence for providing coordinated, supportive and comprehensive care to pregnant women who use substances by providing a model for reducing the harm from alcohol and substance for women and their babies. See page 12 of this guide for a clearly charted overview of how physicians and other health care practitioners can support withdrawal, do psycho-social and nutritional interventions, and address barriers to care for pregnant women.

The model acknowledges the interconnections that impact a woman’s use of substances during pregnancy – including domestic violence, mental health, smoking, and stigma – and provides a guide for identifying risk and next steps for further assessment, support and/or treatment. See page 9 for a view of how identification differs for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or not planning a pregnancy.

It also moves beyond normal referral and coordination practices by using a holistic assessment process and designating a case coordinator or clinical lead to ensure “assertive follow-up.” Assertive follow-up consists of: making sure women are supported during pregnancy and birth; keeping mothers and their babies in the hospital so that post-birth assessments for mother and child can be done and plans for support and services are in place; providing breastfeeding, safe sleeping, parenting skills and contraception support; as well as, interfacing with partners, family members, and community agencies in support of the woman and her child.  See page 16 for more discussion on assertive follow-up and pages 19-20 for “Addressing barriers to care”.

Although the extensive resources that are included in this guide are geared for practitioners in Australia, many of them provide topic-specific information that practitioners everywhere may find helpful. See pages 24-27 for website links.

For more on screening in primary care settings, see previous posts:

For more on FASD prevention in Australia, see previous posts:

 

 

 

 

 

FASD Conference 2

Marsha Wilson, Nancy Poole and Dorothy Badry at the 7th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Session E3: Developments in Prevention of FASD – The Work of the Can FASD Prevention Network Action Team

At the 7th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD in Vancouver on April 9, 2016, Nancy Poole and Dorothy Badry described the work of CanFASD’s Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT).  They provided examples of the pNAT’s work on:

  1. Network building – Sharing expertise and skills through a network of researchers, policy analysts, clinicians, community-based service providers and advocates dedicated to FASD prevention
  2. Research – Building multidisciplinary research teams, developing research proposals, and conducting research
  3. Collaborative knowledge exchange – Developing and implementing strategies for moving “research into action” such as through workshops, curricula development for health and social service professionals, and policy analysis
  4. Influencing policy and service provision  Guiding service and policy improvements with governments and communities

Given the conference focus on adolescents and adults with FASD, the 2011 research led by pNAT member Deborah Rutman on prevention with girls and women with FASD and substance use problems was highlighted.   Treatment and support with girls and women who live with FASD is one of the least researched areas of FASD prevention.

A list of FASD prevention resource materials developed by pNAT members was provided. Reports and infographics that summarize research, and thereby support research-to-practice and -policy are included below.

LINKS

7th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD

Research on prevention with girls and women with FASD

CanFASD  – description of the pNAT

FASD Prevention Resources Spring 2016

FASD Resources

projectchoices_infographic_en

Project CHOICES is a program in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that works with girls and women of any age who are not currently pregnant, drink alcohol, and are sexually active. The goal of the program is to reduce the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy through choosing healthy behaviours around alcohol and birth control use.

This infographic summarizes changes for participants three months after completing the program.

Project CHOICES is based on motivational interviewing which is a counseling approach that is respectful, non-judgmental and client-centred. Motivational interviewing allows health care providers and clients to explore possible areas of change, discuss strategies that make sense for the client and their life circumstances, and provides encouragement and support.

The program considers three different routes to reducing the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy: (1) reducing alcohol use (2) using effective contraception (3) reducing alcohol use and using effective contraception.

Learn more about the evaluation from Healthy Child Manitoba. Check out the program website to learn more about the program, how to make a referral, and for resources on alcohol, pregnancy and birth control.

word on the street

plan

Elizabeth Elliott recently wrote a short article describing current FASD prevention efforts in Australia for the journal Public Health Research and Practice (available here).

Increasing awareness and understanding of FASD has resulted in a number of positive developments at a national level, including a federal parliamentary inquiry into FASD (2011), the development of an Australian Government action plan to prevent FASD (2013) and the announcement of government funding to progress the plan and appoint a National FASD Technical Network (June 2014).

Some of the earliest FASD prevention activities in Australia were led by indigenous communities. In 2007, a group of Aboriginal women from Fitzroy Crossing in remote northern Western Australia led a campaign to place a ban on the sale of full strength alcohol in their community.

This led to the Lililwan Project, the first ever prevalence study of FASD in Australia and a partnership between Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services, Marninwarntikura Woman’s Resource Centre, the George Institute for Global Health and the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health at The University of Sydney Medical School.

This ‘research in action’ project included diagnosis and development of individualised management plans to address the health issues of each child. Earlier this year, the researchers reported that one in eight (or 120 per 1000) children born in 2002 or 2003 in the Fitzroy Valley have FAS.

In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council revised the guidelines regarding alcohol use in pregnancy to state “For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.”

HealthPro_Page_1

In 2014, the Women Want to Know project was launched. Developed by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) in collaboration with leading health professional bodies across Australia and with support from the Australian Government Department of Health, the project encourages health professionals to routinely discuss alcohol and pregnancy with women in keeping with the revised guidelines.

FARE also launched the Pregnant Pause campaign in 2013 to encourage ‘dads-to-be’ and all Australians to support someone they care about through their pregnancy by taking a break from alcohol.

November 2013 also marked the first Australasian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Conference  held in Brisbane.

Organizations such as the National Organisation for FASD Australia have taken a leadership role in education and advocacy related to FASD, including advocating for pregnancy warning labels on alcohol.

resizedimage300138-pregnancy-logo

Drinkwise, an alcohol industry-funded organization, has voluntarily developed ‘consumer information messages’ such as ‘It is safest not to drink while pregnant’ and ‘Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix.’ However, an audit found that 26% of products carried a DrinkWise alcohol pregnancy warning label. (Visit Drink Tank for a discussion of alcohol industry led product labeling in Australia).

For more on FASD prevention in Australia, see earlier posts:

'Prevention-Matters-Conference-Program2015

Prevention Matters 2015 will be held September 30 – October 2, 2015 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The conference is hosted by the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute and the University of Saskatchewan.

The conference theme is “Prevention Matters for Children, Families, and Communities” and will provide opportunities to explore primary prevention efforts and highlight environmental and societal factors that positively influence the health and health behaviours of children and families.

Several of the presentations address FASD prevention and supporting healthy pregnancies, including:
  • Preventing FASD in an Alocogenic Culture: Relationship, Contraception, and Alcohol Practices of 20somethings (Brooke Ramsay, Stewardship and Engagement Coordinator, Foothills Fetal Alcohol Society)
  • Aboriginal Maternal Mental Health and Resilience (Angela Bowen, Associate Professor, College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan)
  • Pregnets: Pregnancy and Smoking (Jessica Penner, Knowledge Translation Coordinator, Nicotine Dependence Service, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto)
  • Baby’s Best Start Prenatal Program (Veronica Hawley, Public Health Nurse, Five Hills Health Region; Erin Hewitt, Public Health Nurse, Five Hills Health Region)
  • Working Holistically with Pregnant Women and Families in our Community (Donna Strauss, Executive Director; Jolene Furi, Prenatal Outreach Worker, Community Action Program for Children; Gabrielle Ermine, Prenatal Outreach Worker, FASD Strategy; Crystal Clarke, Prenatal Outreach Worker, FASD Strategy; Allison Gamble, Prenatal Outreach Worker, Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program; Rose Alcock, Prenatal Outreach Worker, Parenting Mentoring Program of Saskatchewan – Family Futures, Inc.)

Visit the conference website here.

IAP10536

Health interventions using mobile phones and related technologies are growing worldwide and some research is suggesting that text messaging can be one strategy to support behaviour change in areas ranging from quitting smoking to HIV testing to healthy living.

The text4baby program launched in the United States in February 2010 and has enrolled more than 700,000 participants. The service delivers text messages to pregnant women and new mothers on a schedule timed to the baby’s due date or birth date.

how_text_4_baby_works

There have been a number of studies evaluating the program (see here) and the program is expanding to include dads. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mhealth and uhealth takes a closer look at the effects of the program in the context of the US military by conducting a randomized trial with pregnant female soldiers and family members. One of the key questions the researchers were interested in was alcohol consumption: “Since you found out about your pregnancy, have you consumed alcoholic beverages?”

In total, there were six messages related to risks of alcohol consumption, including both recommendations not to drink and warnings about the risk of FASD. The researchers found a dose-response relationship, with higher levels of text message exposure predicting lower self-reported alcohol consumption. The text4baby participants also reported lower quantities of alcohol consumed postpartum.

This study suggests that text messaging can be an effective brief intervention for addressing prenatal alcohol use. For more on this topic, see an earlier post: Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service in Tanzania (December 17, 2013).

Reference

Evans, W., Nielsen, P.E., Szekely, D.R., Bihm, J.W., Murray, E.A., Snider, J., and Abroms, L.C. (2015). Dose-Response Effects of the Text4baby Mobile Health Program: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mHealth uHealth, 3(1):e12. DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.3909. PMID: 25630361. (Open Access)

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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