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4th in Series: First-ever FASD Prevention Plenary at the 7th International Conference on FASD: PART 3

“Research on Reaching and Engaging Women and Children using Approaches that are Theory Based, and have an Equity Lens” – Janet Christie, Addiction Recovery Coach, Canada; Anne Russell of the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders, Australia; Pippa Williams of UK and European Mothers Network-FASD; Margaret Leslie and Dr. Mary Motz of the Mothercraft/Breaking the Cycle, Canada

L to R: Janet Christie, Anne Russell, Pippa Williams, Margaret Leslie, Dr. Mary Motz with Dr. Nancy Poole, Prevention Plenary Co-Lead

One of the highlights of the first Plenary on Prevention at the 2017 International Conference on FASD, was the presentation on supporting women and families dealing with issues of alcohol and FASD.

Janet Christie, Anne Russell and Pippa Williams are three birth mothers who have created supports for women and families dealing with issues of alcohol or FASD. Their experiences have informed and are reflected in many reports and studies: that no woman intends to harm her child; that there are multiple and complex issues that affect women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies; and, that fragmented and inflexible services make it difficult for women and families to get help.

Stigma is one of the biggest barriers affecting access to services. Addiction is still viewed by many as a moral failing rather than a public health issue. Meanwhile the alcohol industry normalizes and glamourizes drinking to women through targeted marketing campaigns. Women are often met with judgement and blame, and fear losing their children if they seek help for an addiction. As well, mothers whose children have FASD need support in dealing with their feelings of guilt and with parenting their children. Often women have complex and intersecting issues, including FASD, that affect their ability to accept support. While these three mothers/advocates are from different countries, they all identify these same issues, and call for programs with wrap-around services to support women and their families.

Margaret Leslie and Dr. Mary Motz then described such a program – Breaking the Cycle in Toronto and its mother-child study “Focus on Relationships”. Based upon well-researched attachment theory, the program focuses on the mother-child dyad during the pre- and post-partum period and on building trust, safety and relational capacity. Relationships extend to staff and service providers. Program efforts to develop collaborative relationships between child welfare, addiction recovery and mental health service agencies have successfully created an integrated and flexible program with the goal of supporting the whole family.


For more on these topics, see earlier posts:

The Mother-Child Study: Evaluating Treatments for Substance-Using Women, March 18, 2015
Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help, October 1, 2012
Herway Home ‘One-Stop Access’ Program in Victoria Set to Open, May 20, 2012
“New Choices” for Pregnant and Parenting Women with Addictions, January 9, 2012
Toronto Centre for Substance Use in Pregnancy (T-CUP), December 19, 2011
Clinical Webcast on Breaking the Cycle Program: September 20, 2011, August 2, 2011
Why Would She Drink? Winnipeg Free Press Articles Explore Drinking during Pregnancy, April 4, 2011

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

dorothy-awardDorothy Badry was honoured by the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities for Alberta on December 2nd. Dorothy has been a long-time advocate, researcher and educator on the impact of FASD (and a dedicated member of the Prevention Network Action Team). Her work has contributed to FASD being recognized as a disability. For families and individuals affected by FASD, that recognition has made a huge difference.

In a University of Calgary article written about her, she describes FASD as an health “outcome” – a key shift from early stigmatizing assessments. This allows for a relational approach that includes women, children, families, and communities and for inclusive and multi-level prevention/intervention strategies.

An original member of the Canada FASD Research Network, we have benefited from Dorothy’s active participation and counsel. She has been featured in some of our previous blogs for her work at with University of Calgary, Alberta province, and several FASD-related programs. We are happy to feature her once again for this well-deserved honour. Congratulations, Dorothy Badry.

For related blogs, see previous postings:

“Developing Services for Canadians Living with FASD” interview with Dorothy Badry on Family Caregivers Unite! January 5, 2015

Alberta’s PCAP Women’s Quilt: “Creating a bond . . . Building a relationship” April 22, 2016

The work of the Network Action Team on FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective (CanFASD Research Network) April 11, 2016

Webinar: “Caregiving, FASD, and Alcohol: Caring about FASD Prevention” – September 9, 2015 August 25, 2015

First Peoples Child & Family Review journal: Special Issue on FASD December 9,

Case Management to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder September 20, 2013

Women’s health and FASD prevention in a special issue of the International Journal of Circumpolar Health August 6, 2013

Brightening Our Home Fires: An FASD Prevention and Women’s Health Project in Canada’s Northwest Territories May 6, 2013

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

Look for us at the 5th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD (April 18-21, 2012) April 9, 2012


Because FASD prevention initiatives often focus on alcohol and pregnancy, people often have questions about how men can get involved.

Researchers and service providers who are part of the Canada FASD Research Network have created a two-page information sheet with some suggestions for men who want to make a difference.

For more on men and FASD prevention, see earlier posts:

NAT activities 2012-2013

The Canada FASD Research Network (CanFASD) is Canada’s first comprehensive national FASD research network and has been in operation since 2005. Members of CanFASD are currently leading over 25 major projects related to FASD prevention, intervention and diagnostics.

You can take a look at the 2012-2013 CanFASD annual report here, but I thought the word cloud above was a good summary of some of the activities that the Network Action Team (NAT) on FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective has been involved with over the past year.

The Prevention Network Action Team includes over 65 members from across Canada who meet monthly via webmeetings to share information on individual work and to plan collaborations on research projects, practice improvements,  policy advocacy and knowledge exchange.

This year, the group has been involved in leading eight research projects and collaborating on a number of others. Key topics include:

  • Investigation of patterns and trends of alcohol consumption by women of child bearing years
  • Alcohol warning labels as a strategy for FASD prevention
  • Community perspectives on FASD prevention in Dene and Inuit communities in NWT
  • Indigenous culture as an intervention for people with substance use problems
  • Building an evaluation framework for community-based FASD programs
  • Responding to the mental health needs of northern women with housing and related health concerns
  • Community perspectives on interventions to support pregnant and parenting women facing substance use and related challenges in Victoria, BC
  • Approaches to the support of women and neonates in neonatal intensive care units

Other activities have included maintaining a blog on FASD prevention (which you’re reading right now!) and a resource called Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help. In this resource, members from four programs for women at high risk of having a child affected by FASD in Edmonton, Surrey, Victoria, and Winnipeg shared ideas about how communities can effectively respond to women’s needs and develop holistic and integrated services.

Pages from what-communities-are-doing-to-help_feb-2013


The 5th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is being held February 27 – March 2, 2013 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

If you’re attending the conference, you might be interested in a new evening session that has just been announced.

Shining a Light on Canada’s Multi-layered Approach on FASD Prevention

Thursday, February 28 (5:30 – 8:30pm at The Westin Bayshore)

FASD prevention involves much more than providing information about the risks of alcohol use in pregnancy. Over the past two decades, Canada has developed a multi-layered approach to FASD prevention. This session will use current examples of FASD-related policies, programs, and initiatives from across Canada.

After providing an overview of the different levels of FASD prevention, the session will highlight the perspectives and work of individuals working in a range of contexts, including government, university and community-based research, program development and service provision, community advocacy, municipal and provincial alcohol policy development.

The session will include highlights from individuals working across Canada, opportunities for networking and dialogue, and group exercises to stimulate reflection and integration of key ideas and principles. Learn more about registering for the session here.

As well, members of the Canada FASD Research Network will be presenting on prevention-related work throughout the conference.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Session A2

Who Drinks Alcohol during Pregnancy? How Results from a Universal Screening Program can Inform Policy and Practice (Ana Hanlon-Dearman and Holly Gammon)

Patterns of Alcohol Use Among Women of Childbearing Years in Canada: Implications for FASD Prevention (Gerald Thomas and Nancy Poole)

Session A4

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Among Women Who Have FASD (Therese M Grant, Dan Dubovsky, Nancy L Whitney)

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Session C6

Evaluating Community-based FASD Prevention and FASD Support Programs Phase Two: Promising Approaches, Frameworks and Resources (Deborah Rutman, Nancy Poole, Carol Hubberstey, Sharon Hume, Marilyn van Bibber)

Friday, March 1, 2013


Session E2

The Politics of Alcohol and Pregnancy Campaigns (Nancy Poole and Tasnim Nathoo)

Session E5

Brightening Our Home Fires: The Application of Photovoice as a Means of Community Engagement in FASD Prevention (Dorothy E Badry, Arlene Hache, Amy Salmon, Aileen Wight Felske)


Session F4 (A4 repeated)

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Among Women Who Have FASD (Therese M Grant, Dan Dubovsky, Nancy L Whitney)

Webcasts and presentations from the 4th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder are available on-line. You can also take a look at earlier posts:

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD