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Research has shown that everyone has a role to play in preventing FASD and that positive messaging is most effective for promoting awareness and discussion of alcohol use during pregnancy. Understanding positive messaging can help avoid the unintended negative consequences we have seen from previous efforts. Prevention-positive principles include:

  • Using non-exploitative imagery. Prevention campaigns are replacing lone naked-belly images with those that emphasize the mother-child dyad within a supportive network.
  • Respectful messaging that encourages women to access help if they need it rather than fear-based or blaming messaging like “if you loved your baby, you wouldn’t drink.”
  • Linking to where information and help is available.
  • Not describing FASD as “100% preventable” as this may lead women to think that the system of care won’t welcome them if they have already consumed alcohol in pregnancy.

Here are some recent examples of prevention-positive efforts from across Canada.

Yukon

The Yukon FASD Interagency Advisory Committee is taking a prevention-positive approach with their “Alcohol-free is supportive” campaign. It consists of posters in English and French, ads in the local theatres, online ads, and a radio ad as featured on CKRW. Below is an example of one poster with plans for others in the coming months. Partners in this project are the Yukon Government, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon (FASSY), and Child Development Centre.

Alberta

Women can sign up to do a “Dry 9” and receive a t-shirt and emails of support during their pregnancy. The Dry 9 movement encourages others to support women who decide not to drink any alcohol during their pregnancy. Short videos on topics such as the “Persistent Friend”, “Co-Parent to Be”, and the “Previous Generation” can be shared with others. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission launched the Dry 9 movement last December as part of DrinkSense.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute focused on positive partner support in their “This is why I supported her not to drink” campaign. The information card is available as a poster and there are also versions in Dene and Cree. Learn more about partner influence and support on their “How To Help” page http://skprevention.ca/how-to-help/

Saskatchewan Prevention Institute http://skprevention.ca/

Québec

Health professionals in Québec City will use printable pamphlets to have discussions with women and their partners about alcohol and pregnancy. Besides information on alcohol and FASD, the pamphlets, published with the help of Public Heath Agency of Canada, describe fetal development, and resources and support. Link to brochures and posters can be found on the Dispensaire Diététique de Montréal site.

Montreal Diet Dispensary and the Public Health Agency of Canada

Ontario

Having discussions about alcohol and birth control with all women of childbearing age and their partners has proven to be an effective FASD prevention strategy. This FASD ONE prevention poster aims to encourage health and social service providers to have discussions and to support a universal screening approach.

FASD ONE

For previous posts about other prevention campaigns, see:

ARE SHOCK TACTICS EFFECTIVE? March 22, 2011

SHOULD AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS BE FEAR-BASED OR SUPPORT-BASED? April 20, 2011

STRONG SPIRIT STRONG FUTURE CAMPAIGN IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA December 19, 2013

ALCOHOL AND PREGNANCY CAMPAIGN FROM NUNAVUT, CANADA September 23, 2014

ONTARIO ALCOHOL AND PREGNANCY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN DRAWS MIXED REACTIONS September 16, 2014

“SWAP THE PUB FOR YOUR BUB” – PREGNANT PAUSE CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES IN CANBERRA August 21, 2014

FASD AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS: CREATING EFFECTIVE MESSAGES July 14, 2014

“WOMEN WANT TO KNOW” CAMPAIGN FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS FROM AUSTRALIA July 9, 2014

RETHINK YOUR DRINKING CAMPAIGN FROM SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO January 13, 2014

flower

An article published by Kathryn E. France and colleagues in the journal Substance Use & Misuse looks at the development and testing of advertising concepts for a campaign to promote abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy in Western Australia.

France and colleagues conducted a series of nine focus groups with women on beliefs and attitudes on alcohol use during pregnancy and motivations for behavior change and gathered feedback on four television concepts that used different types of messaging.

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • Women’s motivations for stopping alcohol use during pregnancy included, but were much broader than, a desire to protect their baby from harm
  • Messages could either aim to emphasize that the negative outcomes, experiences, or feelings could be reduced or avoided and/or that positive outcomes, experiences, or feelings could be obtained or maintained if women abstained from alcohol during pregnancy (e.g., wanting to minimize a generalized fear that something could go wrong or wanting to believe they were in control and doing the best that they could to support the health of the pregnancy and the baby)
  • In this particular study, the most effective message/tested ad concept was one that appealed to negative emotions, suggesting that fear appeals can be more effective than positive messages
  • It might be useful for campaigns to also include positive messages (e.g., a display of social support and acceptance for a pregnant women) abstaining from alcohol in conjunction with a threat-based message
  • Study participants also appreciated specific strategies for avoiding alcohol during social situations.

This study supports previous research showing that fear-based messaging can be effective if the behaviour that is being promoted is achievable by the viewer, i.e., women who drink alcohol in general. Fear or threat-based messaging promoting abstinence is not helpful for women with alcohol problems.

The authors also comment on the importance of being honest and factual about the limits of research on alcohol during pregnancy. Most women believed the public health guidelines that alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy, but questioned whether light drinking was a major concern.

“Credibility of the message was enhanced by acknowledging uncertainty about the risk to the fetus with low to moderate alcohol exposure. Rather than undermine an abstinence-based message, this information served as a clear rationale for the recommendation. An honest and scientific framing of the message and delivery by an expert source were also shown to minimize counterargument and strengthen the message’s persuasiveness.” (p. 8)

For more on this topic, see earlier posts:

Reference

France, K. (2011). Creating Persuasive Messages to Promote Abstinence from Alcohol During Pregnancy. Theses: Doctorates and Masters. Paper 413. http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/413

France, K., Donovan, R.J., Henley, N., Bower, C., Elliott, E.J. et al. (2013). Promoting Abstinence From Alcohol During Pregnancy: Implications From Formative Research. Substance Use & Misuse, Early Online:1–13.  DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2013.800118

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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