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3rd in Series: First-ever FASD Prevention Plenary at the 7th International Conference on FASD: PART 2

“International Research on Discussing Alcohol with Women and Their Partners, and Empowering Professionals to Have These Conversations”: Tatiana Balachova, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center & Prevent FAS Research Group; Jocelynn Cook, Chief Scientific Officer for The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Lisa Schölin, Consultant at WHO Regional Office for Europe – Alcohol, Illicit Drugs and Prison Health; Leana Oliver, CEO of FARR; Cheryl Tan, Health Scientist CDC

Research shows that building awareness and offering brief interventions can help women reduce alcohol-exposed pregnancies. For a variety of reasons, not all providers feel comfortable or confident in giving information or asking about alcohol use, and they may not be sure it makes a difference in preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancies. Consequently, researchers from around the world presented their findings at the 7th International FASD Conference Prevention Plenary. They discussed whether or not brief interventions work, and if they do, then which strategies work best.

Russian study picRussia – Positive Messaging Improves Knowledge and Action

Tatiana Balachova, PhD, and her research group conducted a 3-part study to develop, implement, and test a prevention program in Russia. They found that women in Russia most trusted their OB/GYN physicians, so they developed FASD educational materials and trained physicians to deliver prevention information in two face-to-face structured interventions. FASD brochures using positive messages and images improved women’s knowledge of FASD and reduced risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies. As well, they found that women who received the intervention reduced their frequency of alcohol use – most quitting – during in pregnancy.

JOGC picCanada – Care/Service Provider Education is key

Jocelynn Cook, Chief Scientific Officer for The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) detailed the Vision 2020 strategies: advocacy, quality of care, education, and growing stronger. These strategies underpin their goals for care providers to focus on preconception as well as pregnancy, and deliver consistent messaging. In line with these goals. Alcohol Use and Pregnancy Consensus Clinical Guidelines that were first published by the SOGC in August 2010 were updated in 2016. The guidelines highlight the value of brief interventions and will be supported in the coming year with online education and training that recognizes “red flags” and provide best practices for supporting women’s health and engagement in discussions on potentially stigmatizing topics such as alcohol use.

who-coverWorld Health Organization – Prevalence Rates Inform Strategy

Lisa Schӧlin, consultant with the World Health Organization’s European office, described the data from Europe on alcohol consumption and drinking during pregnancy. The most recent prevalence data shows that Europe has the highest consumption rate of alcohol per capita of anywhere else in the world. As well, at 25.2%, it has the highest rate of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the highest rate of FAS (37.4 per 10,000). These data were published in a review of the evidence and case studies illustrating good practices and areas of European action called “Prevention of harm caused by alcohol exposure in pregnancy” – you can view or download here.

FARR picSouth Africa – Short Messages Can Build Awareness

Leana Oliver, CEO of Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), explained how FARR builds upon existing health services by providing prenatal support, pregnancy planning and teaching of coping strategies to women through their programmes. Their “Do you have 3 Minutes?” campaign has been successful in building awareness within communities and in supporting prevention programmes (learn more here). As well, the FARR Training Academy offers accredited trainings and continued professional development on FASD to professionals, providers and educators. Research projects and FARR publications detail what has been learned such as the benefits of motivational interviewing and the need for preconception care and planning.

CDC picU.S. – Promoting Universal Screening and Brief Intervention

Cheryl Tan, Health Scientist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed FASD activities currently underway. Surveillance of alcohol consumption by women of reproductive age is ongoing alongside efforts by the CDC to promote universal screening and brief interventions (aSBI) of adults 18+ years. She noted the wide discrepancy between how often providers say they conduct SBI (85%) and how often patients say they receive it (25%). As well, as a partner of the Collaborative of Alcohol-free Pregnancy, the CDC is helping to change healthcare practice through high-impact projects: 1) implement interprofessional model for prevention of AEP; 2) provide evidence for aSBI to insurers in the US; and, 3) reduce stigma associated with drinking during pregnancy.

For more these topics see earlier posts:

First-ever FASD Prevention Plenary at the 7th International Conference on FASD, March 22, 2017
WHO Europe: Prevention of harm caused by alcohol exposure in pregnancy, December 22, 2016
“Supporting pregnant women who use alcohol or other drugs: A guide for primary health care professionals”, May 15, 2016
How do partners affect women’s alcohol use during pregnancy?, August 11, 2014
Empowering Conversations to Prevent Alcohol Exposed Pregnancies: Extended Learning Webinars, May 8, 2014
The Prevention Conversation Project – Free Webcast on January 21, 2015 (Alberta FASD Learning Series), December 15, 2014
Alcohol and Pregnancy campaign from Norway, December 12, 2011
FASD Prevention in Russia, February 15, 2012


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!”


Rethink Your Drinking is an awareness campaign from nine health units in southwestern Ontario.

Based on Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, the campaign does not encourage individuals to stop drinking but rather to rethink their drinking and find a healthier relationship with alcohol.

The website includes downloadable posters and fact sheets on different aspects of the guidelines. “Size Matters” helps individuals to understand what is a standard drink. “Time Matters” describes the importance of spacing drinks and drinking slowly. “Choice Matters” describes impairment, injury and alcohol myths. “Sex Matters” looks at sex-specific differences in the guidelines and why women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. “Everything Matters” examines the long-term risk of alcohol use including stroke, cancer and other chronic disease.

The Rethink Your Drinking website has a section specific to women. (The Low Risk Drinking Guidelines have different suggested limits for women and men and suggest avoiding alcohol altogether when pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or about to breastfeed).

For more on Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, see previous posts:

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD