New program aims to reduce birth-mortality rate for Alberta aboriginal mothers

Pregnant Stomach

A new program aimed at the maternal health needs of indigenous communities will seek to reduce the risk of death during childbirth.

“The death rate of aboriginal women here in Alberta is twice that of the general population and we find that unacceptable,” said Dr. Naveen Rao, lead for the program Merck for Mothers. “The unique challenges they face (include) the social determinants of health, such as housing, food and security, cultural insensitivity, lack of education … on the medical side there is obesity, hypertension, addiction.”

On Friday, Rao announced a $1-million grant that, along with $300,000 from Alberta Innovates, will go towards initiatives in Maskwacis, Little Red River Cree Nation and inner-city Edmonton. In collaboration with Alberta Health Services, the funding will be used for education, peer support in the weeks before and after birth, as well as improved care co-ordination and evaluation.

“There is room for both traditional teaching and western medicine to play a role in healthy pregnancies and childcare,” said Randy Littlechild, executive director of Maskwacis Health Services. “Every year we have approximately 200 to 300 births in our communities. … There are challenges Maskwacis women and children face — transportation is an issue, there’s a very high demand for this service.”

Dennis Laboucan, community services director for Little Red River Cree Nation, said staff is stretched too thin to reach all expectant mothers in the nation’s three communities.

“We are a remote community, our traditional ways are still intact, but they have been impacted by history,” he said, adding that there were 129 births in 2015. “We look forward to more staff funded by this program.”

Alberta has the third largest aboriginal population in Canada, with more than 220,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. Regardless of place of residence, the perinatal mortality rate for aboriginal women in Alberta is around seven in every 1,000 births, compared to around four in every 1,000 births in the non-aboriginal population.

Along with addressing needs in remote communities, the $1.3 million in funding will also go towards helping vulnerable expectant mothers living in inner-city Edmonton through an initiative dubbed Pregnancy Pathways. The program, launching next spring, will establish a 12-unit apartment building where homeless expectant mothers can live and access support services on site.

“Imagine being hungry for two, being homeless for two. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many in our community,” said Cecilia Blasetti, executive director of the Boyle McCauley Health Centre. She added that of the more than 100 women in Edmonton who find themselves in this situation every year, between 60 and 80 per cent are indigenous.

Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said Friday’s funding announcement offers a “glimmer of hope.”

“We’ve heard loud and clear from the AHS wisdom council of the struggles that (indigenous communities) face,” she said. “(It) goes to ensuring that pregnancy and childbirth for vulnerable women is a safe and healthy and joyful experience. … One we assume that everyone has, but in fact many do not.”

Written by: CLARE CLANCY

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Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse And When To Get Help

alcohol addiction - drunk businessman holding a glass of whiskey

A drink here or there might not sound harmful, but for people who have an addiction to alcohol, it can be destructive to one’s health and personal life.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), the “low-risk drinking guidelines” in Canada recommend up to two drinks a day for women (with an additional drink during special occasions), and up to three drinks per day for men.

“It might not be easy to stay within the guidelines. You’re out with friends, the alcohol is flowing,” says Dr. Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy advisor at CCSA.

“Still, there are some strategies. Drink slowly and eat before and while drinking. For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink. Set limits for yourself and stick to them,” she says.

Paradis says clinically speaking, there are three different levels of risk when it comes to developing a drinking problem.

An elevated risk is when someone drinks regularly above the low-risk drinking guidelines; alcohol abuse occurs when drinking gets in the way of family and work life in a harmful way; and alcohol dependence is when someone starts showing signs of withdrawal if they stop drinking.

Click to watch a video on the symptoms of alcohol abuse.

If you notice any of these signs and others mentioned in the video above, confront your loved one and talk to an expert.

And with the holiday season (a.k.a. party season) already here, it might be useful to not only cut back on your own habits, but start taking note of others around you as well.



Register now for the December 14, 2016 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Webcast

Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society

Round tableRegister now for the December 14, 2016 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Webcast

Join us for this free, one-hour webcast titled: Approaching FASD in the Classroom.

In this webcast, we will be interviewing two education professionals who have been working in Alberta’s public school system.  With experience both as a teacher in the classroom and as a counselor, they will speak to their experiences in working with individuals with FASD.  They will share stories as well as best practices and recommendations for education professionals in the system, or who will be entering the system.

Date: Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. MST
Speakers: Alaina Thursby and Ken Smale
Register Here
Format: Moderated interview style discussion with Q & A
Cost: FREE! Please share with your networks
Q & A: You can pose questions to the speakers through the live chat functionality

Alaina Thursby is the youth…

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12 Mocktails of Christmas

Count down to Christmas with the 12 mocktails of Christmas advent calendar

The silly season is now upon us and the diary is jam packed with function after function, family gatherings, parties and catch ups all featuring lots of food, drinks and alcohol. For those who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or taking a break from alcohol, Christmas often means trying to fend off the constant offers of alcoholic drinks while making the most of your sparkling water.

NOFASD and Pregnant Pause (FARE – Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education) want to ‘rock the mock’ this Christmas and have compiled the best mouth-watering mocktails for their 12 Mocktails of Christmas advent calendar When mocktails taste this good, who needs alcohol? Ice-cold, fruity and delicious, these handpicked cocktails sans the booze are easy to make and ideal for all occasions. Save the plastic cups for picnics, these liquorless libations need to be served up in proper glassware – going alcohol free doesn’t mean being demoted to the kiddies table.

12 Mocktails of Christmas  will help you count down to the big day through an interactive advent calendar slowly revealing a new recipe during December.  So, whether you’re pregnant, planning a pregnancy, on a health kick, the designated driver or prefer not to drink alcohol or want to be the hostess with the mostest, why not beat the heat this Christmas and with mix it up with these tasty mocktails.


12 to 14 small mint leaves or 6-8 big ones

30 ml fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

120 ml of sparkling mineral water

Put the mint leaves, lime juice and brown sugar in a tall cocktail glass and muddle the leaves. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add the mineral water. Stir to mix up the sugar. Garnish with another mint sprig.

Modified from recipe at

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How one woman overcame fetal alcohol syndrome and found art

How one woman overcame fetal alcohol syndrome and found art

By: Sharon Oosthoek


“How are you going to change your part of the world in a positive way for the next seven generations?”

That was the challenge that Jennifer Tourangeau put to her fellow graduates at Grande Prairie Regional College’s two-year visual arts and design program in Alberta this spring. She urged them to take an Indigenous approach to stewardship—that is, to live and work for the benefit of seven generations into the future. As valedictorian, it was her job to send them out into the world with a message of hope. The 36-year-old Dene woman’s very presence at the lectern was likely hope enough for many in the crowd.

“My own change began when I chose Grande Prairie Regional College as my first stop in the journey to my dreams,” she told them. “During this time, I have  had my own struggles, joy, excitement, and at some points wanting to give up. As you can see, I didn’t.”

Tourangeau, who describes her art as a mix of painting, sketches and ink drawings, often inspired by her Indigenous heritage, says she loved the way her instructors built on her strengths as an oral and visual learner. But it’s been a long road to this point.

She was born with fetal alcohol syndrome in the Northwest Territories community of Lutsel K’e, on the shores of Great Slave Lake. When she was 14 months old, her mother gave her up for adoption and she grew up with her adoptive family in Fort Smith, N.W.T. While Tourangeau’s adoptive father, who is Indigenous, and her adoptive mother, who is not, were supportive of her, she struggled with feelings of abandonment and long periods of depression.

When she met her biological mother again at the age of 13, it was an emotional experience that shook her up. “I mean, how do you explain to a 13-year-old who has a disability why you gave them up? It took me a long time to realize the biggest sacrifice a mother can give is to give up her child so she can have a better life.”

At the age of 16, Tourangeau landed a job as a disability and community worker in Fort Smith. She enjoyed it, but was never able to do it full-time, even after graduating from high school. “The heavy lifting”—often part of the job, working with the disabled—“was hard on me,” she says. “I’m only four foot ten.”

After a short-lived attempt at a career as a computer technician, she found another job as a group-home worker. But she pushed herself hard and worked long hours, leading to burnout and a medical leave for stress and anxiety.

It was during this time—as Tourangeau was trying to figure out what to do with her life—that she enrolled in the visual arts and design program at Grande Prairie. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with the diploma. I just needed something to enjoy,” she says. “The art allowed me to release a lot of pain and find out who I was.”

But Tourangeau’s pain was not over. As she began her first semester, she received news that her biological mother had been strangled and her body left in an alleyway in downtown Yellowknife. As Tourangeau began the final year of her program last fall, her mother’s murderer was sentenced to life in prison.

“It may not be enough, but at least I got closure. A lot of Indigenous people don’t get this,” she says. “My mother is the product of the residential school system and so am I. I choose to break the cycle.”

She praises her instructors for supporting her request to complete the two-year diploma over four years and allowing her to ease into the program with studio-based work.

One of those instructors, Native studies teacher Kirsten Mikkelsen, describes her as a “highly focused and determined human being who strived for excellence in spite of the barriers.”

Mikkelsen recognized her student’s potential. This fall, she helped recruit Tourangeau as a peer mentor for Indigenous learners in the college’s department of arts and education.

While Tourangeau loves her new job, she sees it as a stepping stone to a degree in art therapy and a career helping others work through their anguish with art.

Her art history instructor, Edward Bader, says she’ll no doubt get there: “She works very hard. She’s very passionate about her art and follows up on every opportunity.”

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New atlas depicts first two months of human development in 3-D


3D reconstructions of human embryos at (from left to right) 6, 8 and 9.5 pregnancy weeks. Credit: Bernadette de Bakker, MD of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands has created an updated interactive 3-D atlas that depicts the various stages of human development from conception to two months. In their paper published in the journal Science, the researchers outline the reasons for medical texts being outdated, how they got around the problem, the features of the new atlas and what it might mean for future medical research efforts.

In their paper the researchers note that modern medical textbooks offer prospective doctors imagery of the first months of human conception that are wildly out of date—pictures and diagrams are from work done half a century ago or longer. Some are from the early 1900’s. Some of the illustrations have even been made by artists attempting to apply what can be seen in the early development of other animals, such as mice, to .

This unfortunate state is due to restrictions placed on the study of developing humans, both those that are still living and growing and those that have died. To provide both researchers and physicians a better reference tool the researchers scanned approximately 15,000 images from the Carnegie Collection of embryo imagery and used them create a new updated 3-D atlas.

The work involved analyzing the images and comparing them against one another to form a consensus regarding elements such as organ size and location as they appear over the course of multiple landmark development dates.

The result is a virtual atlas reminiscent of Zygote Body (originally developed by Google). Users can choose a stage, which indicates an age, e.g. 51 to 53 days after conception and then manipulate the image that is displayed to suit their needs by zooming in, comparing size relative to a grown human hand or peeling back layers to view induvial organs, or the nervous or circulatory system.

The researchers report that their work, which included assistance from approximately 75 students, revealed that some of the images in current textbooks have organs in the wrong place while others have them developing in the wrong time frame.

The new atlas, they claim, should prove to be helpful to researchers looking to better understand birth defects, particularly those that get their start very early on. It should also provide doctors with better information regarding development in pregnant women.

New atlas depicts first two months of human development in 3-D
3D reconstructions of a human embryo at 9.5 pregnancy weeks (15.9 mm in length). On the left the skin, on the right all reconstructed organs. Credit: Bernadette de Bakker, MD of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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How to attend an office party without drinking


As the days inch toward Christmas, holiday parties are dotting social calendars. These work-related parties constitute a necessary component of our corporate culture. They reward employees, allow for valuable bonding time between colleagues and offer opportunities to socialize with bosses on a more human level.

However, these events can also be the stuff of legends, and not in a good way. Several media outlets frequently run office-party horror stories. For example, NPR did a roundup last year of embarrassing incidents that occurred as a result of alcohol.

In one incident, three co-workers lost their jobs after being found in the restroom – “they weren’t resting.” In another case, one employee confessed to a co-worker that she was in love with him. More frequently, the storiesjust involve falling over, vomiting or merely saying things one shouldn’t.

Horror stories aside, casual and excessive drinking has become normalized. The office of the U.S. Surgeon General recently released its first report on substance abuse and found that in 2015, over 66 million people, or almost a quarter of all youth and adults, admitted to binge drinking in the previous month.

Drinking in an office setting may be worse than in other social settings, since our brain does not compensate for the effects of alcohol in a new setting as it would in a familiar one, such as home or bar.

So how does one attend an office meeting and not drink? According to Tara Cottrell, co-author of Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind, one way to start is to hold a non-alcoholic beverage in hand until that awkwardness soon dissipates.

“The truth is people generally don’t notice what you are drinking. A club soda with a lime looks exactly the same as a gin and tonic. In fact pretty much any soda in a short glass with a cocktail straw looks like a mixed drink. And most bartenders can whip up a good mocktail. Is it ridiculous to pretend to be drinking when you don’t actually want to drink? Maybe. But as you try this way of socializing, it may help ease the transition,” she said.

Your cover may get blown if someone buys a round of drinks and you need to explain you aren’t drinking. She recommends confidently responding that you are trying something new by not drinking, or simply don’t feel like it.

On occasion, someone at the party may want to probe some more – especially if they are considering not drinking, or if they feel defensive about their own alcohol consumption. That’s a small price to pay to maintain the mental acuity to pick up subtle insights about your colleagues, that you otherwise may not have noticed under the influence of alcohol, Ms. Cottrell argues.

Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Ms. Cottrell co-wrote the book with Dan Zigmond, a writer, data scientist and Zen priest who advises startups and venture-capital firms on data and health. This is relevant since health and business trends sometimes do come out of Silicon Valley first. For example, Bulletproof Coffee, a concoction that includes butter instead of milk, hit it big among the startup crowd in 2014 as a way to “hack” your body into better performance.

According to research sponsored by Heineken, 75 per cent of millennials limit the amount of alcohol they consume on a night out. The research also shows that part of this moderation stems from a shifting perception of what makes for a good night, and good food with friends often takes priority.

Ms. Cottrell said millennials are also more focused on wellness, which isn’t compatible with drinking. She sees more parties encompassing yoga and mindfulness instead. For example, in New York City, there is a trend toward early morning “sober raves,” where the health-minded embark on “juice crawls.”

Rejecting the traditional idea that booze has to be part of a good time means opening up to new, healthier ways to connect with others, she said.

Part of the issue with drinking at work events comes down to a lack of creativity. Often people suggest it simply because they can’t think of anything else to do.

“There’s no law that says drinking with co-workers is the only way to socialize and connect with them. Think about what’s near your office that maybe you haven’t tried as a group. Could you go bowling? Go see a movie together? Check out some live music?”

While all those activities may also lend themselves to drinking, it takes the emphasis off merely standing around and throwing back shots. While it may seem a cop-out to some – or even a reason to feign sickness when the holiday party date arrives – it does prevent you from making one of those lists of “worst office party” stories that may haunt your career.

Leah Eichler (@LeahEichler) writes about workplace trends

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