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This September 9th marks 19 years since the first International FASD Awareness Day. Building awareness is multi-faceted and, for long-time advocates of FASD prevention, it can seem that we take two steps forward and one step back.

We asked four members of our Network Action Team on FASD Prevention (pNAT) to reflect on the work they have done over the years in their community of Victoria, BC. They bring perspectives on how practice approaches, policy and research intersect to build effective FASD prevention efforts within the larger goal of supporting the health of women and families in general.

Many people, including health professionals, believe that there is a greater negative impact from opioid exposure rather than alcohol exposure. The current opioid crisis provides us with a unique opportunity for FASD prevention.
Lenora Marcellus — Associate Professor of Nursing, University of Victoria

I have had the opportunity over many years to work with Neonatal Intensive Care Unit teams related to supporting infants experiencing withdrawal from opioids. This issue has actually continued to grow related to the prescription opioid epidemic and fentanyl crisis that is impacting many communities, including here in British Columbia where the Provincial Medical Health Officer declared a public health emergency in 2016 in response to the rise in drug overdoses and deaths. What continues to surprise me in this work is how the issue of prenatal alcohol exposure rarely, if ever, comes into the conversation. Many people, including health professionals, believe that there is a greater negative impact from opioid exposure rather than alcohol exposure. The current opioid crisis provides us with a unique opportunity for FASD prevention . The strategies for supporting women during pregnancy, many developed by members of the pNAT, have been demonstrated in research to be effective, no matter the substance. I encourage you to partner with women, advocates and professionals in your community to highlight the importance of FASD prevention within the many conversations that are taking place about opioid use during pregnancy across Canada and beyond.

The proof is in – these kinds of wraparound programs that join a FASD-informed approach, with being culturally safe, trauma-informed and women-centred are successful and make a significant difference.
Amanda Seymour – Programming and Practice – Coordinator, HerWay Home

HerWay Home’s 5th Anniversary was earlier this year and I’ve been reflecting on how far the program has come since the visioning and advocacy done by community members leading to its opening in 2013. We have had the privilege of working with over 220 women and being allowed into their lives and that of their families. We have seen the impressive strides and successes the women have made and witnessed their love for and connection with their children. I’ve also reflected on how much more society needs to do. To prevent FASD along with the myriad harms from substance use and ongoing violence and trauma, we must address all the social determinants of health. Women report a positive change in their lives due to their connection with other women in the program, the support, trust and respect they receive from staff and the access to practical supports, health care and counselling. When I look forward to the next 5-10 years I would like to see programs like this one be available in many communities on Vancouver Island where I live, across BC and across Canada. The proof is in – these kinds of wraparound programs that join a FASD-informed approach, with being culturally safe, trauma-informed and women-centred are successful and make a significant difference. Women are able to reduce or abstain from substance use, improve their mental health and keep their children or see them returned to their care when they receive non-judgemental, harm reduction supports and tangible, practical help.

[We now have] … a set of Evaluation Maps to provide guidance and tools for developing, implementing and evaluating FASD-related programs (www.fasd-evaluation.ca).
Deborah Rutman – Principal and Co-Founder, Nota Bene Consulting Group & Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Victoria

As a researcher and program evaluator, I feel immensely privileged to be able to learn about and report on the incredible work undertaken by staff at diverse FASD prevention programs and to hear women’s stories and experiences, including about what a tremendous difference these wrap-around programs such as HerWay Home make to women and their families. For me, one of the exciting opportunities – and one of the challenges – of evaluating FASD prevention programs is depicting the complexities associated with FASD and FASD-related programming: complexities in terms of the inter-related issues that women and families struggle with; complexities in terms of the range of services and program activities that matter to women; and complexities in terms of the myriad program outcomes that, as evaluators, it is important to document, including: women feeling safe and not judged; women having improved basic needs support, nutrition and safe housing; healthy births; reduced child welfare involvement; increased mother-child connection; abstinence/reduced or safer substance use; and women’s sense of connection and hope. Several years ago, our Nota Bene team, partnering with Nancy and with lots of input from pNAT members, developed a set of Evaluation Maps to provide guidance and tools for developing, implementing and evaluating FASD-related programs. Currently, with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada and in partnership with eight inspiring programs across the country, our team is undertaking the Co-Creating Evidence study: a ‘first in Canada’ national evaluation of wrap-around programs that work with pregnant or recently parenting women with substance use and other complex issues. We have just completed our first round of data collection at all eight sites and we look forward to sharing our findings with NAT members – and beyond – in the coming months.

It so gratifying that for a decade now, we in Canada have been able to meet virtually in this pNAT to share ideas and identify ways to collaborate on research, practice and policy related to alcohol and FASD prevention.
Nancy Poole – Researcher and Knowledge Translation – Director, Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health

Every time International FASD Day comes around, I think both of the tremendous work people are doing on FASD prevention and how much there still is to do. I am so lucky to have colleagues like Lenora, Deborah and Amanda who are committed to FASD prevention in my own city! We get together over dinner fairly regularly to talk about how our work fits together, and how we can actively work together in various combinations to advance FASD prevention research, practice and policy. In particular, we have been able to lend lots of support to the establishment and ongoing enhancement of programming at HerWay Home. Amanda, Deborah and Lenora have also been core members in our national work on FASD prevention where we link and advance the work on research, evaluation, practice and policy through the Network Action Team on FASD Prevention (pNAT) that is funded by the CanFASD Research Network. It so gratifying that for a decade now, we in Canada have been able to meet virtually in this pNAT to share ideas and identify ways to collaborate on research, practice and policy related to alcohol and FASD prevention .

September 9th will mark almost two decades since the first FASD Awareness Day. Communities and organizations around the world are planning events and media campaigns to raise awareness. But what does “FASD awareness” actually mean? The answer is that FASD awareness is multi-layered.

It means AWARENESS that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a disability caused by prenatal alcohol exposure and has a range of effects that are lifelong and varied.

It means AWARENESS that for women, alcohol consumption has particular risks.

It means AWARENESS that there is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption or safe time to drink during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Without knowing how much or how little alcohol can cause FASD, there is always a risk.

It means AWARENESS that there are many reasons why a woman might drink during pregnancy and that women deserve information and support, not blame and stigma.

It means AWARENESS that FASD is a primary disability that affects individuals differently and can lead to secondary disabilities, particularly if undiagnosed.

It means AWARENESS that people living with FASD have both strengths and challenges, and they and their caregivers deserve and benefit from respect, support and resources.

It means AWARENESS that there are ways for everyone to take part in prevention and intervention efforts.

It means AWARENESS that research continues and there is hope.

Share your photos and videos with CanFASD on social media to raise awareness about FASD! Use #FASDAwarenessDay #CanFASD to WIN Great Prizes! On Facebook and Twitter @CanFASD

For International FASD Awareness Day on September 9th, the CanFASD Research Network, through its Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) and the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, developed this infographic on what we know about alcohol use and preventing FASD. You can download a PDF version here.

CanFASD focuses on all aspects of FASD that impact women, individuals, caregivers, and service providers through its network action teams, each with a different focus – prevention, intervention, research, and policy and service providers. These teams aim to put forth knowledge in a way that is useful to communities and organizations in Canada in developing effective programs and policies.

You can search hashtags #FASDay2017 #CanFASD on Twitter to see examples of what others in Canada, or visit some of our pNAT partners using the links on the left side of this blog.

 

Since 1999, FASD activists have held World FASD Awareness Day events on 09/09 to represent the nine months of pregnancy, often highlighted with a bell ringing ceremony at 9:09 am. September 9, 2016 is approaching, and this year activists want to use social media because it provides a unique and far-reaching means of building awareness.

You can help build FASD awareness by posting a message, reposting theirs, or bringing attention to their events on your own social media accounts.

FASD Awareness Day Share with CanFASD

Canada

This year Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) is providing an online forum for organizations to post their initiatives on the CanFASD website. Include a description and a picture or video and they will re-post and Tweet it out to all of their followers. You can post using #FASDAwarenessDay #CanFASD and win prizes.

The Executive Director of CanFASD , Audrey McFarlane says “ CanFASD is very pleased to be able to highlight the fantastic work that the local communities are doing to raise awareness of FASD on September 9 as the local FASD service providers and caregivers are the hardworking folks that manage this work everyday.”

United States

NOFAS US has developed a FASD Awareness Day Packet for 2016 to assist organizations with planning activities for the month of September – FASD Awareness Month.

Their social media campaign includes:

  • A Twitter Chat using the hashtag #FASDMonth as well as offering tweets you can use to send out to others.
  • A one-time message commemorating FASD Awareness Day can be posted to your social media accounts using ThunderClap – a crowd-speaking platform using social media. Learn more here.
  • A campaign to create a video that will feature an inflatable globe being “passed” around the world. Click here to learn more about the campaign.

New Zealand

The University of Auckland is hosting a FASD Policy and Research Forum starting at 9 a.m. on FASD Awareness Day. Find out more here. To find more information, links, and downloads from New Zealand, visit the Fetal Alcohol Network NZ and the Ako Aotearoa learning website for the Pregnancy and Alcohol Cessation Toolkit for providers.

Australia

NOFAS Australia is encouraging people to take a pledge not drink on Sept 9 and to post it on social media as a way to spread the word about FASD.

Also on the Pregnancy Birth & Baby website, there is a call to join the Pregnant Pause Campaign for FASD Awareness Day.

United Kingdom

The FASD Trust is asking people to get involved in a number of ways – raising awareness in school using the Trust’s School Pack, writing their MP. Click here to see their efforts.

To learn more about the history of FASD Awareness Day and get more ideas for events, click on FASD Awareness Day website.

Is your group, organization, or country planning a FASD Awareness Day event? Please share them in the Comments section below.


Previous postings about FASD Awareness Day

Today is International FASD Awareness Day, September 9, 2015

Today is International FASD Awareness Day, September 9, 2014

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From the FASDay website:

“The first FAS Day began on September 9, 1999 in Auckland, New Zealand, where “Minute of Reflection” bells rang at 9:09 a.m., at Mt Albert Methodist church. Then it moved to Adelaide, Australia, and then to South Africa, where at 9:09 a.m., Cape Town volunteers gathered to hear the War Memorial Carillon that rang when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Volunteers in Italy, Germany and Sweden held events – and then FASDay crossed the Atlantic.  There were events in every time zone across Canada and the U.S., including ringing of carillons in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Hastings, NE, and Austin & San Antonio, Texas. The westernmost activity was the community breakfast on the tiny island of Kitkatla, B.C., near the Queen Charlotte Islands, where the village bell rang at 9:09 a.m. followed by prayers in the native tongue by village elders.”

Events to increase awareness about FASD are happening all over the world today and throughout September. Find out what’s happening in your community.

The image above is from a poster and brochure developed by the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch. (Each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories has a liquor board or commission that oversees the control, distribution and sale of beverage alcohol in its jurisdiction. Many boards run FASD Awareness campaigns in the month of September as part of their social responsibility initiatives).

Here are a few other resources on FASD developed by members of the Canada FASD Research Network that you might want to share with others.

What Men Can Do

KNOW FASD

Pages from 19-2-PB

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Pages from FASD_WarningSignageInfoKit_Booklet_web

Pages from First-Nations-Women’s-Healing-Photoessay-web

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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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This awareness campaign in Ontario has been getting a fair amount of attention in the past few weeks. (See the CBC coverage: LCBO joins campaign against Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, August 25, 2014)

The campaign was developed by FASWorld in Toronto, a non-profit organization co-founded by adoptive parents, Brian Philcox and Bonnie Buxton. Earlier this year, posters from the campaign could be seen around Toronto.

This September, FASWorld teamed up with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to spread the campaign across all 640 LCBO outlets in Ontario.

While many people find the images to be positive, others have critiqued the campaign as it suggests that women who do not stop drinking during pregnancy are uncaring and irresponsible. Others have found the focus on the fetus/pregnant belly and the use of naked women to promote awareness as problematic.

Global News reports on mother, Laura Jamer, who lodged a complaint with the LCBO.  Jamer critiques the campaign in light of inconclusive research on “light” drinking.

Jamer is quoted as saying that the campaign is unlikely to be effective for women with serious alcohol misuse concerns and may make other women feel guilty or scrutinized: “This marketing campaign is probably not going to target people with the propensity to drink heavily while they’re pregnant. Those people have bigger issues going on in their lives where a light guilt-ridden campaign is not going to make a difference to their drinking.” (See the coverage: LCBO ad urging pregnant women to avoid alcohol spurs formal complaint, September 16, 2014)

Tom Megginson on the Osocio blog also takes a closer look at the campaign. He comments:

“This campaign sounds positive, but there’s a second read here: “If you love your body, and love your baby, you won’t drink any alcohol while pregnant.” Or worse: “IF you drink ANY alcohol while pregnant, you obviously don’t love your body or your baby, and if the baby has problems it’s your fault!”

ENG_Whisky

The Too Young To Drink campaign was launched last week on September 9, 2014 (International FASD Awareness Day).

The launch of the campaign involved individuals and organizations displaying a banner of the campaign in a busy area of their home towns at 9:09am on September 9, 2014. Groups all over the world took pictures and made videos of themselves with the banners and shared them via social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

global images

Campaign materials are available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Portugeuse, Japanese, Italian, Slovenia, and Polish. All the images feature a fetus immersed in a bottle of alcohol, but the bottle reflects the traditional drinks of various countries and regions: brandy from the Balkans, the French champagne, Italian wine, the English and Irish whiskey, and vodka of Eastern Europe.

The campaign visuals were developed by Fabrica, the organization that developed the Italian “Mummy Drinks, Baby Drinks” campaign (which I’ve blogged about in the past here and here). Fabrica is a communications research centre financed by Benetton.

Creative Director Erik Ravelo talks about the campaign in this “behind the scenes” video.

Visit the campaign website here. If you are interested in learning more about or joining the network, visit the Network website here. Also, read more about the background to the campaign in an article published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research earlier this year (Open Access).

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The Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg delivers children in care and community based programs and services to Aboriginal families.

Check out tweets from the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre from yesterday (International FASD Awareness Day).

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Learn more about the organization on its website or view the YouTube clip below.

FAS Knot

From the FASDay website:

“The first FAS Day began on September 9, 1999 in Auckland, New Zealand, where “Minute of Reflection” bells rang at 9:09 a.m., at Mt Albert Methodist church. Then it moved to Adelaide, Australia, and then to South Africa, where at 9:09 a.m., Cape Town volunteers gathered to hear the War Memorial Carillon that rang when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Volunteers in Italy, Germany and Sweden held events – and then FASDay crossed the Atlantic.  There were events in every time zone across Canada and the U.S., including ringing of carillons in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Hastings, NE, and Austin & San Antonio, Texas. The westernmost activity was the community breakfast on the tiny island of Kitkatla, B.C., near the Queen Charlotte Islands, where the village bell rang at 9:09 a.m. followed by prayers in the native tongue by village elders.”

Events to increase awareness about FASD are happening all over the world today and throughout September. Find out what’s happening in your community.

Below are some of the posters that you might see in liquor stores across the country today. (Each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories has a liquor board or commission that oversees the control, distribution and sale of beverage alcohol in its jurisdiction. Many boards run FASD Awareness campaigns in the month of September as part of their social responsibility initiatives).

FASD_Poster_VERTICAL_highres

fassy2

SR_FASD_Web poster

3-050_No-Thanks_Im_Pregnant_PosterWeb

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Be With Child Without Alcohol

 

NSLC-smbanner

LCBO

 

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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