FASD Issue Papers from the Canada FASD Research Network provide a quick overview of recent research

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The Canada FASD Research Network has developed a series of “issue papers” that provide a 2-3 page overview of a range of issues related to FASD based on the latest research.

Some of the prevention-related topics include:

Other topics related to FASD more generally include:

These issue papers can be a great way to catch up on recent research or to get a quick overview of an area of work you’re not as familiar with. All the issue papers can be downloaded from the Canada FASD Research Network website.

 

FASD prevention signs required in all Alberta liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and night clubs

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Yesterday, the Alberta government announced that liquor stores, restaurants and bars are required to display signs about FASD prevention to help raise awareness of FASD.

While increasing awareness about FASD and the harms of alcohol use during pregnancy is very important, it’s very interesting that this announcement (as well as other awareness initiatives) rarely discuss whether FASD signage is helpful or effective.

Several jurisdictions, including the United States, France, Russia, South Africa, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, have regulations requiring warning labels related to drinking during pregnancy and/or other risks.

A recent review on the effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in FASD prevention found that:

While alcohol warning labels are popular with the public, their effectiveness for changing drinking behavior is limited. Available research suggests that for maximum effect, alcohol warning labels should speak clearly about the consequences of alcohol consumption and should also be coordinated and integrated with other, broader social messaging campaigns. Use of alcohol warning labels related to alcohol and pregnancy must be carefully considered; their messaging has the most influence on low-risk drinkers, and to date they have not been shown to change the drinking behavior of those who drink heavily or binge during pregnancy. However, alcohol warning labels have been shown to stimulate conversations about alcohol consumption and may play a role in shifting social norms to reduce risks.

There are so many types of signange these days –  from posters to videos to coasters to pregnancy test dispensers – that it’s hard to evaluate each approach effectively. But it does seem clear that these types of efforts may increase knowledge about the risks of drinking during pregnancy but have little impact on women’s behaviours.

So, it’s always a little worrisome when awareness campaigns are accompanied by discussions of bystander interventions. Manmeet S. Bhullar, Alberta Minister of Human Services is quoted in the Alberta press release as saying:

“FASD is 100 per cent preventable, and like drinking and driving, we all have a role to play to make drinking while pregnant a social taboo. The effects of FASD on children are devastating, but through common sense initiatives like this, we will bring instances of FASD down by raising needed awareness and encouraging people to step up and say ‘no’ when they see someone drink alcohol while pregnant.”

FASD is arguably NOT 100% preventable – addiction is common in our society, alcohol use often happens before a woman recognizes that she is pregnant, and is linked to issues such as  poverty and gender-based violence. But, more importantly, fear of stigma and judgement is a major reason for many pregnant women to avoid seeking help if they are having a difficult time stopping drinking. For women who are at the highest risk of having a child with FASD (and who research shows are least likely to be influenced by awareness campaigns), bystander interventions where people step up and say ‘stop drinking’ will likely make things worse.

See the media release from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission here.

For helpful information about alcohol and pregnancy, including FASD prevention, see the Alberta government’s Healthy Pregnancies website here.

For more on FASD prevention in Alberta, see earlier posts:

 

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References

Thomas, G., Gonneau, G., Poole, N., & Cook, J. (2014). The effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in the prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A brief review. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, X(Y), N-M. doi:10.7895/ijadr.vXiY.126 (Open access)

 

 

 

Pernod Ricard extends the “No alcohol for pregnant women” logo worldwide

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On June 5, 2013, Pernod Ricard, the company that produces brands such as Absolut and Chivas Royal, held the “third edition” of its Responsib’all Day where its 18,800 employees engaged in activities related to promoting responsible drinking.

The company announced that it planned to expand its already voluntary program of including no alcohol during pregnancy warning labels from Europe to the rest of the world.

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Warning labels are being included as part of the company’s overall social responsibility commitments which include:

1. Reducing under-age drinking
2. Strengthening and expanding marketing codes of practice
3. Providing consumer information and developing responsible product innovation
4. Reducing drinking and driving
5. Enlisting the support of retailers to reduce harmful drinking

Alcohol warning labels are a strategy that have been used in several countries and are often proposed by FASD advocacy groups as one way to prevent FASD by encouraging women to abstain from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  Several jurisdictions, including the United States, France, Russia, South Africa, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, have regulations requiring warning labels related to drinking during pregnancy and/or other risks. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom have chosen to work with industry to encourage the voluntary placement of consumer information and health warning labels (such as with Pernod Ricard).

While the idea of alcohol warning labels often receives popular support and is frequently supported by the alcohol industry, one of the main arguments against implementing mandatory alcohol warning labels is that evidence for their effectiveness in changing drinking practices is not particularly strong.

When it comes to pregnancy, the evidence suggests that warning labels seem to have the most influence on ‘low-risk’ drinkers and little to no effect on the those date who drink heavily or binge drink during pregnancy.

It is possible, however, that alcohol warning labels could have a role in shifting social norms around acceptable drinking practices and encourage conversations about alcohol use more generally.

For more on the topic of warning labels, see previous posts:

Further Reading

Caprara, D., Soldin, O., & Koren, G. (2004). To label or not to label: the pros and cons of alcohol warning labels in pregnancy. Journal of FAS International, e:9, 1-3.

Thomas, G.T., Gonneau, G., Poole, N., and Cook, J. (forthcoming). The effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in the prevention of FASD: A brief review. The International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research.

Wilkinson, C., & Room, R. (2009). Warnings on alcohol containers and advertisements: international experience and evidence on effects. Drug And Alcohol Review, 28(4), 426-435.