Building awareness about the risks surrounding alcohol use when pregnant and supports for making change in alcohol use are foundational to preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Awareness building can come in many forms, from posters and websites to warning labels and events. However, not all awareness approaches are effective. Over the past several decades, researchers have conducted studies to determine the most effective approaches for awareness raising. By using these evidence-based approaches and linking them to other levels of prevention we will have more impact.
As September comes to a close, we’d like to share three Canadian FASD Awareness initiatives that used evidence informed and innovative messaging and/or images, to raise awareness this International FASD Awareness month.
1. New Posters from the Foster Family Coalition of the North West Territories
These beautiful new posters from the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT highlight the importance of noticeability in developing effective communications. These bright posters have a simple and consistent colour scheme that draws the eye.
They’ve also aimed to increase the effectiveness of the campaign through integration. Integration is when you combine your messaging with how to act on the information. This could involve collaboration with other organizations, releasing materials in many different formats (i.e. social media, posters, brochures, events), or incorporating other related information into your messaging.
In this case, they’ve included the phone number and website of the NWT Help Line for those in need of support to make changes.
2. New Campaign from the Piruqatigiit Resource Centre
One very important consideration to keep in mind when developing your communication campaigns is comprehension. Your message needs to have clear, simple, and direct information that your specific audience can relate to. Every audience that we communicate with is different.
The new FASD awareness approach from the Pirugatigiit does an amazing job of respecting the culture of their audience when developing their resources. They are working to raise awareness of FASD in Nunavut, which has a large Inuit population. Not only do they offer resources in English and Inuktitut, but they’ve also integrated imagery, values, terminology, and practices specific to Nunavummiut within their approach.
3. Alcohol and Pregnancy Don’t Mix Brochures by BC Liquor Stores
Research shows us that it’s important for us to develop a message that is relevant for our audience (threat) while at the same time encourages them to take action (efficacy). It is a balance between providing the information needed while preventing feelings of helpless to act.
Campaigns with strong fear based messages (i.e. “One drink can harm your baby”) or that have unnecessarily graphic images (i.e. a fetus floating in alcohol) can be off-putting. Such messages and images can prompt a fear-based response that can cause women who have consumed alcohol while pregnant to feel helpless and ashamed.
The messaging in the BC pamphlet is effective because it does a good job of balancing the threat with an appropriate response with sentences like:
- “If you did drink and find out you’re pregnant, it’s important to realize it’s never too late to quit or cut down on your drinking if quitting isn’t possible.”
- “There is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy, so it is safest not to drink at all when women are pregnant.”
Above all, these campaigns are positive! They help break down the stigma surrounding alcohol and pregnancy by highlighting FASD as a relational and societal issue, and not just the responsibility of women who are pregnant. These campaigns show us that we all play a part in FASD prevention.
To find out more tips for how to create effective alcohol and pregnancy awareness campaigns please check out this resource from Canada FASD Research Network and the Government of Alberta.