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In developing a panel presentation at the FASD International conference in 2007, Nancy Poole highlighted why the traditional “primary, secondary, and tertiary” model used for disease prevention did not fit as well for prevention of FASD. While designing that panel together with service providers and a birth mother to a child diagnosed with FASD, it dawned on Nancy and the panelists that FASD prevention wasn’t just about alcohol or pregnancy.

When asked to prepare a write-up of this emerging thinking for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Poole assembled a group of 25 Canadian prevention specialists to collectively discuss and build the final 4 part model. It was published by PHAC in 2008 (see page 18 for the list of 25 co-developers – Full MODEL Here). The model illustrates how it is important to link mother child and community health in prevention, including continuing to support women and children past the perinatal period.

Over these last 10 years, this Canadian model has been adopted or built upon by FASD prevention specialists in Canada and a number of countries.

Figure 1: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

A recent article discussing what to do about high levels of alcohol use during pregnancy in the United Kingdom recommended the 4-level prevention model as a way to help women make informed decisions.

In Australia, Dr. James Fitzpatrick of Telethon Kids has used and built upon the multi-level model by showing how important it is to link, intervention, research and diagnosis to FASD prevention efforts (Figure 2). He has led community-based FASD prevention initiatives in remote parts of Western Australia that have significantly reduced alcohol use during pregnancy.

Figure 2: Adaptation of 4-Level Model of FASD Prevention by Dr. James Fitzpatrick, Telethon Kids, AU

Perhaps the model has influenced recent action plans regarding FASD, such as that of New Zealand. It emphasises the need for wrap-around services that pair women’s and children’s health including substance use services and treatment for pregnant and post-partum women. They also emphasize collaboration across sectors at the policy and community level.

Looking back, the 4-level prevention model was developed from the collective wisdom of researchers, service providers, policy analysts and birth mothers while implementing prevention initiatives in Canada. Further adaptations have included larger policy components that are key to prevention of alcohol problems. The development process of the model underscores how no one agency or approach can cover FASD prevention. It requires efforts in each of the levels, in ways that are mutually reinforcing.

For more on these topics, see earlier posts:

FASD PREVENTION WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN AUSTRALIA April 3, 2017

FASD PREVENTION CAMPAIGNS LINK TO SUPPORT January 29, 2018

BRIEF INTERVENTIONS TO DECREASE ALCOHOL MISUSE IN WOMEN November 26, 2013

HOLISTIC AND SPECIALIZED SUPPORT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN: LEVEL 3 PREVENTION November 21, 2016

THE MOTHERING PROJECT/MANITO IKWE KAGIIKWE IN WINNIPEG, MANITOBA May 1, 2015

INTEGRATING FASD PREVENTION AND ALCOHOL POLICY March 17, 2011

NEW ZEALAND’S NEW ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS FASD September 17, 2016

Cover Mother-Child-Study_Report_2014

Mothercraft’s Breaking the Cycle (BTC) in Toronto is one of Canada’s first prevention and early intervention programs for pregnant women and mothers who are substance-involved and their young children.

The program’s goal is to reduce risk and enhance the development of substance-exposed children by addressing maternal substance use problems and the mother-child relationship.

Historically, treatments for substance use tended to minimize gender roles and, in particular, mothering relationships. Contemporary integrated treatments for substance use often emphasize gender-specific issues within the treatment setting, such as trauma (historical and/or present, including domestic violence), depression and other mental health concerns, and adoption of harm reduction goals with respect to substance use. Contemporary integrated treatments have also evolved to acknowledge the importance of the mothering role for women.

Profile of BTC families

This evaluation report described the findings of the Mother-Child Study. The study evaluated and compared the Breaking the Cycle program model of relationship-focused service delivery and its effects on mothers and children with a group of similar women who received a more standard contemporary integrated treatment for substance use issues.

The findings of the Mother-Child Study highlight the critical role of relational-focused interventions in supporting change for substance-involved mothers and their children.

Program features that made a difference for women’s outcomes included:

  • Supporting women to learn about relationships in a number of different ways
  • Making the focus on relationships an integral part of substance use treatment
  • Recognizing that increased relationship capacity with their children enriches the lives of women

Program features that made a difference for children’s outcomes included:

  • Providing integrated early intervention programs
  • Providing comprehensive, multimethod assessments
  • Prioritizing early intervention services which support the mother-child relationship

Importantly, the study found that children, even those exposed to substances during pregnancy, do better when mothers have relationship-focused intervention

Read the report, take a look at summary fact sheets and learn more about the Breaking the Cycle program at www.mothercraft.ca.

fact sheet 9

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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