What should be communicated about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in public health communications?

wdyt-bannerWomen’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a significant health and social issue in Canada. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the medical diagnosis used to describe the full range of cognitive, behavioral, and physical disabilities that may result from prenatal alcohol exposure, and it is estimated that 500 babies a year in Alberta are born with this preventable birth defect (Government of Alberta, 2015, para. 3). At an assessed provincial cost of $927.5 million annually to health, social, educational, and correctional services, the economic burden of FASD to society requires that communities and all levels of government within Canada work together to prioritize its prevention (Government of Alberta, 2015, para. 4). A key component of this is building broad awareness and health promotion through public health communications.

In theory, FASD prevention is straightforward, if a woman does not consume any alcohol when pregnant then the child will not be at-risk for having FASD. In reality prevention is complex and women continue to consume alcohol despite the Government of Canada’s official health recommendation that “alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix; there is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy or when planning to be pregnant” (PHAC, 2012, para. 1), indicating that current health dialogues have missed an important ingredient in their mockatil strategy.

In analyzing current prevention efforts Poole (2016) and associates suggest that while public awareness campaigns may increase knowledge this does not always translate to a change in attitudes and behavior. They indicate that a “coordinated, compassionate, evidence-informed, and [a] systematic approach to prevention tailored to the needs of women at differing levels of risk” (2016, p. 9) was needed.

Which leads us to ask you:

What should be communicated about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in public health communications?

We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


Government of Alberta (2015, August 26). FASD In Alberta. Available from http://fasd.alberta.ca/fasd-in-alberta.aspx Accessed March 10, 2018

Public Health Agency of Canada (2012, January 8). The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Available from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/healthy-pregnancy/healthy-pregnancy-guide/alcohol-pregnancy.html Accessed January 24, 2018.

Poole, N., Schmidt, R., Green, C., & Hemsing, N. (2016). Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Current Canadian Efforts and Analysis of Gaps. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 10, 1 – 11. https://doi.org/10.4137/SART.S34545

One comment

  1. FASD is the most common, most expensive, yet most avoidable of all mental disorders in the industrialized world (Dr. C. Loock). We must make FASD “Official” by mandating instruction within existing curricula at the primary and secondary school levels, in every professional higher education program (Medicine; Education; Social Services; Law) and warnings of the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy in all promotional materials, including labelling of beverage alcohol. These steps can be taken at no additional cost to the taxpayer! So why don’t we do it?

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