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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.
In 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:
HOLISTIC AND SPECIALIZED SUPPORT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN: LEVEL 3 PREVENTION, November 21, 2016
With International FASD Awareness Day just around the corner (on September 9th), many organizations and communities are getting ready by developing awareness materials and planning activities ranging from pancake breakfasts to seminars and training for health professionals to social media activities.
In the past decade, awareness about FASD has increased and in many communities the majority of women are aware that alcohol consumption can cause harm during pregnancy. However, new research and ongoing media coverage and continues to raise questions about whether any alcohol use during pregnancy is okay or whether risk remains the same throughout pregnancy. And many people know very little about FASD in general.
In addition to addressing this type of ambiguity, there are a number of other types of messages that have been shown to be helpful, informative and supportive. Depending on who your audience is (see the infographic above about some different audiences you could consider), some of the other issues to consider in developing FASD prevention messages include:
- Make sure that messages are balanced and informative. Indistinct or ambiguous messages about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy should be avoided. Messages like “Think before you drink” or “Alcohol can harm your unborn baby” can be perceived as threatening without helping women place risk into context.
- Avoid focusing on encouraging women to stop drinking for their baby or suggesting that women who don’t stop drinking are uncaring or irresponsible. This includes messages like “When you drink during pregnancy so does your baby” or messages written on top of pregnant bellies saying “Hey, I’m in here!” Lessons from the tobacco and pregnancy field indicate that these messages are not effective and can be perceived as shaming and blaming women who are unable to stop drinking during pregnancy due to problems with alcohol dependence.
- The message that “Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is 100% preventable” is controversial as alcohol use often happens before a woman recognizes that she is pregnant or can be tied to other serious health and social issues such as poverty and experiences of violence.
- Don’t forget that preventing pregnancy by supporting accessible and safe contraception is an excellent FASD prevention strategy – it’s not always necessary to focus on alcohol use. For example, a message could say something like “Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. If you drink alcohol and are sexually active, make sure you use effective contraception.
Here are a few resources for starting to think about effective messaging and communication.
- Keys to a Successful Alcohol and Pregnancy Communication Campaign – While over a decade old, this 2003 resource from the Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario remains an excellent guide to getting started with thinking through key issues related to alcohol and pregnancy awareness campaigns. Includes facts, tips, ideas, and examples. The Centre also has a range of resources for health professionals and general audiences related to alcohol, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, including Mocktails for Moms and printer-ready handouts in English, French, Arabic, Cree, Ojibway, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog
- FASD PosterMaker app -This app was designed for health professionals working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care settings across Australia so that they can create their own locally relevant and culturally appropriate resources on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
- BC Ministry of Health International FASD Awareness Day Toolkit – Includes planning tools, sample press releases, and FAQs
- Alcohol, Pregnancy and Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: What Men Can do to Help – There are a number of ways to engage men in FASD prevention activities. This two-page fact sheet has a dozen suggestions to start thinking about how to create messages and campaigns that view FASD prevention as a shared responsibility.
For more discussion on best practices and controversies related to messaging, see earlier posts:
- Developing and Testing Alcohol and Pregnancy Campaign Messages: Exploring What Works with Women (October 14, 2013)
- Do concerns about alcohol use during pregnancy lead women to consider having an abortion? (February 1, 2013)
- Evaluation of the Italian ‘Mummy Drinks, Baby Drinks’ Campaign (July 17, 2011)
- Should Awareness Campaigns Be Fear-based or Support-based? (April 20, 2011)
- Are shock tactics effective? (March 22, 2011)
The Women Want to Know project encourages health professionals to routinely discuss alcohol and pregnancy with women and to provide advice that is consistent with the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol. This is the first national campaign targeted at health professionals since the Alcohol Guidelines were last updated in 2009.
A survey of 300 health professionals conducted prior to the project found that one in five health professionals had not heard of the Guidelines and more than two in five (45%) were aware of the Guidelines but not familiar with the content.
The guidelines state that ‘Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby’ and ‘For woman who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option’ and ‘For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option’.
Research has also shown that 97 per cent of Australian women want to be asked about alcohol use during pregnancy.
The Women Want to Know project was developed by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) in collaboration with leading health professional bodies across Australia and is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.
There are two main components to the project: (1) resources to support health professionals in discussing alcohol use and pregnancy with women, and (2) accredited training.
Resources from the Women Want to Know project include:
- A leaflet for health professionals on pregnancy and alcohol HTML | PDF 359 KB
- A leaflet on assessing alcohol consumption in pregnancy using AUDIT-C HTML | (PDF 332 KB)
- A leaflet for women on pregnancy and alcohol HTML | (PDF 309 KB)
- A leaflet on the Women Want to Know project HTML | (PDF 331 KB)
- Videos demonstrating health professionals discussing alcohol and pregnancy with women
- Videos of women and health professionals reflecting on this experience
In addition three online e-Learning courses with Continuing Professional Development accreditation are available for health professionals through the:
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Australian College of Midwives
Read the press release from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education here. Learn more about the project and recently developed resources here.
Program and Registration Information now available
The Living Well: FASD and Mental Health conference will be held November 5-7, 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The conference is an initiative of the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership Conference and hosted by Healthy Child Manitoba.
The Living Well: FASD and Mental Health conference will delve into the interconnection between mental health and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder spanning the areas of prevention, intervention, support, evaluation and research. This multidisciplinary event will cover topics such as how individuals with FASD and mental health concerns can be better understood and supported, how caregivers can support their mental health and how mental health concerns influence FASD prevention work.
Keynote Presentations include:
- Dan Dubovsky — Working with Individuals Living with FASD and Mental Health Concerns: Best and Promising Practices
- Nancy Poole — Working with Pregnant Women with Mental Health and Substance Use Concerns: Best and Promising Practices
- Dr. Ana Hanlon-Dearman — FASD Diagnosis: Mental Health Considerations
- Dr. Mansfield Mela — FASD and Mental Health Disorders: Exclusive or Mosaic?
- Brenda Knight — Responding to the Complex Issues of Families Living with FASD
- Momenta and the FASD Family Network — Feeling Success: The Camp Experience
Some of the workshops included in the program are:
- FASD Assessments: From the Clinic to the Court Room — Jonathan Rudin and Panel
- Evaluation: What’s All the Fuss About? — Jacquie Pei and Panel
- We’ve Only Just Begun: Advances in FASD Prevention — Nancy Poole and Colleen Dell