The prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is critical to the success and achievement of Alberta’s FASD 10-Year Strategic Plan’s (the plan’s) goals and targets, all of which have the ultimate aim of reducing the incidence of FASD. The FASD-CMC maintains the responsibility for prevention and awareness across the province. The plan intends to ensure: an overwhelming majority of Albertans have heard of FASD, that Albertans understand the implications of FASD; change the behavior of Albertans; and assist mothers to be in reducing the harm from alcohol use during pregnancy.
The last government major public awareness campaign about FASD was in 2005 and was targeted to all adult Albertans. In 2011/12, a small campaign targeted to patrons and staff of liquor stores and liquor-serving establishments was initiated by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) and supported through the FASD-CMC. It is time to engage in a more robust approach to further spread the awareness of FASD, so we may better collaborate efforts to prevent FASD.
Prevention of FASD is complex because there are many reasons why a woman may drink while pregnant, including addictions, poverty, unemployment, abuse and family violence and complex histories of trauma (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2007). Preventing risky alcohol use by women before, during and after pregnancy does not take place at only one point in time, nor does it occur through a single interaction with one care provider (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008). Therefore, prevention must involve providing information about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy but also extend to supporting women in such a way that promotes healthy relationships with professionals to promote safety and health in all facets of their lives. This broader preventive support will entail targeted, intensive supports to women of childbearing years as well as broad strategies geared towards creating connected communities of support.
In 2011, the Institute of Health Economics (IHE) published Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder FASD – Who is Responsible? The research outlined in this publication found that some strategies for prevention – such as broad alcohol-related warning messages and alcohol bans – are not effective at increasing knowledge about FASD or in changing attitudes toward alcohol use during pregnancy. Conversely, the IHE found there is evidence for the effectiveness of strategies such as multimedia education programs aimed at youth, health education programs for women of childbearing age and pregnant women, screening programs to identify high-risk women, and interventions that reduce alcohol use during pregnancy. We need to bring this message closer to women and families to truly enhance the impact of the prevention message.