(en anglais) Conversation boosts honesty over drinking in pregnancy, study finds

A « conversational approach » is the most successful way of encouraging honest disclosure of drinking habits by pregnant women, a new study says.

This contrasts with previous research that had recommended midwives should use formal screening tools, such as structured questionnaires.

The new study, from Stirling and Edinburgh universities, said it was important to build trust.

It said the questions had to be flexible and not simply asked verbatim.

It is estimated more than 40% of women in the UK consume alcohol during pregnancy, despite there being no known safe level in terms of the health of their unborn child.

International guidelines recommend the use of alcohol screening and brief interventions (SBIs) in antenatal care to identify drinking and offer support to women to reduce the risks.

Typically, SBIs involve a short conversation with a midwife, while women who are drinking more heavily can be offered specialist support.

However, few studies have investigated their implementation.

Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing, led the study.

She said: « Midwives used several strategies to facilitate honest disclosures, including taking a positive tone in conversations and exploring drinking habits prior to pregnancy or prior to when women realised they were pregnant.

« It was felt that these approaches helped build a trusting relationship between pregnant women and midwives and improved disclosure rates. »

Dr Fitzgerald said the study noted a decline in disclosure that coincided with the inclusion of additional, separate, questions about parenting capacity.

She said this raised the possibility that other questions, asked at the same time as alcohol screening, may affect disclosure rates.

On several occasions, midwives found reported alcohol use elicited through standard questions was lower than expected given the known levels of alcohol use in their local area.

Alcohol use in pregnancy can cause harm to the developing foetus, including growth restrictions, low birth weight, pre-term birth, and foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. (Read more…)

(en anglais) Midland mother knows how fetal alcohol spectrum disorder affects families

Debbie Simpson knows first-hand the struggles that come from parenting a child diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Her five-year-old stepson Dante Edmonds was diagnosed was FASD in March. He also lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Simpson also cares for 15-month-old Kanye McDanial-Kamara, who, while too young to diagnose, is already showing signs of a developmental disorder.

“All kids living with FASD end up with all different kinds of diagnoses before they are diagnosed with FASD,” said Simpson.

Simpson, Dante and Kanye marched around town on Sept. 9 — International FASD Awareness Day — to raise awareness about the disorder and the struggles that come along with it.

Her tour of the downtown included stops at Wendat Community Programs, town hall, the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment, MP Bruce Stanton’s office and MPP Jill Dunlop’s office.

“My goal is to bring awareness about FASD and to try and stop the stigma my boys have been subjected to,” said Simpson.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a term that describes the effects to an individual who was prenatally exposed to alcohol.

Although the risk is higher with heavy alcohol use, any amount of alcohol may affect or harm a developing baby. Alcohol exposure during the first trimester — perhaps before a woman even knows she is pregnant — can cause major birth defects.

Around four per cent of Canadians, more than 1.1 million people, live with FASD.

Common effects include memory difficulties, speech and language problems, impulsive behaviour, social difficulties, sensory challenges and physical problems.

“When Dante becomes upset about something, he can’t find the words he needs to use to be able to say that he is upset. He will go into a meltdown and start kicking and knocking things over,” said Simpson.

She would like to see more FASD supports and services brought to the north Simcoe area. Even if it’s something simple like a support group.

“I feel we have made a difference, but we need more supports here,” said Simpson. (Read more…)

(en anglais) From Research to Impact: How Efficient Are Our Health Interventions?

The challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities can be complex, and families often access a wide range of specialized clinical, educational, and community-based interventions to help their children. But the reality is money is limited and competition to fund these interventions and services can be stiff. How efficient are our health interventions?

Being able to prove the efficiency and effectiveness of interventions is one way to ensure these critical resources are available for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

For example, if researchers can show that by accessing early interventions children with autism will use fewer resources later in life—thereby saving money in the long term—governments might be more invested in making these early interventions available.

The Health Economics Research Program supported by Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN) is focused on doing assessments in order to inform the allocation of funding, services, and supports for kids with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

“By realizing that the health system has a finite budget and you can only spend on so many things, economic evaluations provide some information around decisions on what to fund and what not to fund,” explains Dr. Jennifer Zwicker, director of Health Policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, and lead of the Health Economics Research Program.

Most recently, Dr. Zwicker and her team completed a study looking at tools typically used to assess the value of interventions, which often informs resource allocation in health care systems. The study found that many of these tools have not been properly used or validated when looking at interventions specific to children with brain-based disabilities.

“The problem is this really limits our ability to do really robust evaluations,” says Dr. Zwicker. “I think the real implications of that are how do you make a case in government about funding or not funding something when you can’t even really do the evaluation in a meaningful way.”

While these findings don’t suggest that doing these critical evaluations is impossible, Dr. Zwicker says the work highlights a gap that needs to be addressed to ensure children and their families are able to access the supports and services they need.

The Health Economics Research Program has also been looking at the cost and health outcomes associated with several ongoing KBHN-supported projects as a way of providing context to the value of specific projects.

For example, Dr. Zwicker and her team have been working with KBHN investigators to articulate the value of FASD screening tools, including eye tracking and biomarkers. Factors for consideration will include the cost of administering the tools, their specificity, and their sensitivity in comparison to other methods already being used. (Read more…)

(en anglais) Making alcohol more accessible is a bad move

Making alcohol more accessible is a bad move, the provincial initiatives to make it easier to buy beer and wine will increase the rates of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

So Rick Rabba, president of Rabba Fine Foods, sees alcohol sales in his stores as good for business?

It probably is good for his bottom line but as another part of Ontario’s headlong, ongoing, foolish rush to, in his words, « increase choice, convenience and fairness for those who enjoy alcohol and modernize beer and wine retailing, » the results are proving to be increasingly negative. Making alcohol more accessible is a very poor decision on the part of both the Wynne and Ford governments. Here’s why.

The rate of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in Canada has been shown to be much higher than what those of us who work in the field thought. More access to alcohol will increase it further. FASD is now recognized by experts as our most prevalent birth defect, bar none. In fact, studies from 2014-18 clearly show increased FASD incidence rates of two to four per cent (variation by study sample) and we are starting to realize that FASD or permanent brain damage caused by pre-birth exposure to alcohol in the womb probably surpasses all of the other common birth defects put together. Do we really want more FASD out there, especially when it is largely preventable?

Do our Ontario alcohol purveyors know that at least 40,000 children in Ontario’s schools have FASD? Do they want to add to this problem? Probably not. Junior kindergarten to Grade 4 students with serious behaviour problems are classic, textbook FASD. Students and educators getting hurt at school, classroom chaos and dropping test scores are just three of the many school problems caused by FASD. These children are damaged, not bad. None of this is their fault. To make matters worse, most educators (not all of them) and the Ontario Ministry of Education have no expertise in supporting and intervening with FASD effectively. In Waterloo Region, we wonder why the rates of homelessness have soared. Really? And yet our provincial government increases the availability of wine and beer. (Read more…)

Un projet de l’Université de Regina pour remédier à la surreprésentation des Autochtones dans le système correctionnel

Le gouvernement du Canada reste déterminé à remédier à la surreprésentation des Autochtones dans le système de justice pénale. Au moyen de l’Initiative sur les services correctionnels communautaires destinés aux Autochtones (ISCCA) de Sécurité publique, le Ministère appuie l’élaboration de solutions de rechange à l’incarcération et de projets de réinsertion sociale destinés aux délinquants autochtones.

Aujourd’hui, le ministre de la Sécurité publique et de la Protection civile, l’honorable Ralph Goodale, a annoncé un investissement de 978 272 $ dans le cadre de l’ISCCA, pour que l’Université de Regina mette en œuvre le projet Navigator-Advocates : Integrated Supports for Justice-Involved Indigenous Youth and Adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (Orientation et défense des droits : Soutien intégré pour les jeunes et les adultes autochtones aux prises avec le système de justice et atteints de troubles causés par l’alcoolisation fœtale [TCAF]).

Il s’agit d’une solution de rechange à l’incarcération et de réintégration appuyée par des travailleurs de première ligne et des accompagnateurs-conseillers informés et formés sur les traumatismes et les troubles du spectre de l’alcoolisation fœtale (TSAF). Ils sont en mesure de défendre les intérêts des délinquants autochtones aux prises avec un TSAF en Saskatchewan et au Yukon. Des organisations autochtones, des intervenants au fait de la problématique des TSAF et des intervenants du milieu judiciaire participeront au partenariat universitaire visant à mettre au point des pratiques communautaires culturellement significatives qui sont adaptées aux circonstances particulières des peuples autochtones.


« Notre gouvernement s’efforce de contribuer à remédier à la surreprésentation des Autochtones dans le système canadien de justice pénale, en soutenant des interventions culturellement significatives faites par des organismes communautaires. Ce partenariat avec l’Université de Regina accroîtra le niveau de participation des délinquants autochtones atteints de TCAF dans le système de justice pénale. Il améliorera leur compréhension de ce système et de leur handicap, ce qui contribuera à réduire leur contact avec le système de justice pénale et rendra nos collectivités plus sécuritaires. »

– L’honorable Ralph Goodale, ministre de la Sécurité publique et de la Protection civile

« Ce financement du gouvernement fédéral fournit à nos chercheurs et à nos partenaires communautaires les moyens d’adopter de nouvelles approches à l’égard de la prestation de soutien et de services, qui sont fondées sur des données probantes et sont éclairées par les constatations et les appels à l’action de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation. En mettant en œuvre ce programme de défense des droits, Michelle Stewart (Ph. D.) et son équipe ont la possibilité de résoudre en partie les problèmes structurels plus généraux auxquels font face ceux qui sont atteints de TCAF et qui entrent en contact avec le système de justice. »

– Vianne Timmons, Ph. D., rectrice et vice-chancelière de l’Université de Regina

(Lire la suite…)

(en anglais) Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder campaign launches at LCBO

THUNDER BAY – No amount of alcohol is safe for women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. That was the message delivered on Friday afternoon, as the NorWest Community Health Centre’s FASD campaign launches at LCBO, reminding women and those around them that alcohol and babies in the womb don’t mix.

Maureen Parkes, the FASD co-ordinator at the NorWest Community Health Centre, said it’s important to get the message out year after year, an attempt to lessen the frequency of the disorder, that can leave newborns with a host of developmental and behavioural issues that follow them throughout their lives.

“It’s about making sure people get the message: no alcohol during pregnancy and no alcohol if you’re planning on getting pregnant,” Parkes said.

“It’s safest for the baby. Nobody knows how much alcohol is safe, so that’s why we say absolutely no alcohol during pregnancy. We want the best outcome for baby.”

Parkes said she’s not sure just how prevalent a problem FASD is in Ontario’s northwest, but it stands to reason with higher rates of alcohol use, more women expecting babies are probably indulging when they shouldn’t.

“If you look at the average, or the prevalence rate in Canada, we could easily have a minimum of 11,000 people in Thunder Bay with FASD,” she said.

It’s estimated about two to five per cent of all babies born in Canada are now affected by FASD, according to information provided by the health centre.

At the low end of the scale, that would mean 4,600 in Thunder Bay alone.

Phil Aune, district manager for the LCBO in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario, said they’ve been taking part in the awareness campaign for the past six years.

“It’s very important to use because it’s part of our social responsibility platform,” Aune said. (Read more…)

(en anglais) Walk raising awareness for FASD

This Saturday, Sept. 7 a walk raising awareness for FASD is helping get the conversation started.

It’s being held at Gillies Lake Conservation Area from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for FASD Awareness Day. People are asked to wear red to promote the visibility of people living with FASD.

The walk is hosted by the FASD Awareness Cochrane-Timmins (FACT) Coalition and Porcupine Health Unit. There will be a free barbecue and refreshments, walk around the lake, guest speakers, and kids’ activities.

When Amanda Mollins Koene doesn’t understand a setting, her dad is there for support.

Mollins Koene has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and refers to her dad as her external brain.

For her, FASD makes it difficult to make decisions. Social settings are also hard.

« So I have an external brain, which is I go to my dad and he helps me out with that. But FASD has made it so that I’m always different from somebody else and it’s made school hard because, it’s like the saying if you judge a fish and a monkey on their way to climb a tree, then the fish lives its whole life thinking it’s stupid. That sort of thing. It’s really impacted my life by making simple tasks a lot harder and it’s just made me a lot more obstacles that I have to overcome,” she said.

Some of the obstacles, she said, are not understanding sarcasm, and being sensitive to high volumes of noise and light. She’s overwhelmed when there are a lot of things happening at once.

She’s learned how to deal with the obstacles.

Headphones help for the sound, and if she doesn’t know if someone is joking or being sarcastic, she’ll ask.

“Again, my dad is my external brain so if I don’t understand a setting or I if I don’t understand something, I can always go to him because he’s always there to support me. And so is my mom, my mom’s there to support me and they’re both my external brains,” said Mollins Koene.

At school, she said in the past two years there has been more help.

“And the school is adapting to the way I learn because I’m very visual and hands on, so I need to feel stuff and see stuff to understand it,” she said. (Read more…)

(en anglais) Surgeon General Releases Advisory on Marijuana’s Damaging Effects on the Developing Brain

Today, Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams, issued an advisory emphasizing the importance of protecting youth and pregnant women from the health risks of marijuana use.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana, binds to receptors in the brain, producing euphoria and a variety of potentially harmful effects, including intoxication and memory and motor impairments. Newer strains of marijuana have also shown to be increasingly more potent, leading to other risks like anxiety, agitation, paranoia and psychosis.

“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, especially for young people and pregnant women,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This historic Surgeon General’s advisory is focused on the risks marijuana poses for these populations, which have been well-established by scientific evidence. As indicated by President Trump’s generous donation of his salary to support this advisory, the Trump Administration is committed to fighting substance abuse of all kinds, and that means continuing research, education, and prevention efforts around the risks of marijuana use.”

Pregnant women use marijuana more than any other illicit drugs. It is also commonly used by adolescents. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s recently released 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data showed that marijuana continues to be the most widely used illicit drug and that further, frequent marijuana use, in both youths (12-17 years old) and young adults, appears to be associated with risks for opioid use, heavy alcohol use and major depressive episodes. In 2017 alone, approximately 9.2 million youth aged 12 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past month and 29% more young adults aged 18 to 25 started using the substance.

“There is a false perception that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs. I want to be very clear – no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe,” said Surgeon General Adams. (Read more…)

Contact: HHS Press Office

(en anglais) Red Shoes Rock and raise awareness for FASD

Red Shoes Rock for FASD!

September 9 marks International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness day.

On Saturday, a “Red Shoes Rock Banner” celebration hosted by Maryann Post of the FASD Advocacy Support Group to commemorate the placement of the banner (a first for Belleville) to promote awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was held at the small parkette beside the banner location on the Front Street bridge at West Moira Street.

Belleville city councillors Bill Sandison, Garnet Thompson and Sean Kelly were in attendance along with a dozen supporters of the cause.

“To all those involved in the preparation of today’s activities we say thanks, and, in particular to Maryanne Post who, on behalf of the Advocacy Support Group is truly an ambassador within our community on behalf of all unborn children who are placed at risk when pregnant women consume alcohol,” Sandison said on behalf of Mayor Mitch Panciuk and council.

Post made a deputation at the Aug. 12 council meeting and council “wholeheartedly supported recognizing the 9th day of the 9th month as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day here in Belleville as part of the International Day to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. (Plus d’infos…)

Le gouvernement du Canada annonce l’octroi de fonds pour sensibiliser davantage la population au trouble du spectre de l’alcoolisation fœtale (TSAF)

Financement pour la sensibilisation au TSAF

Le trouble du spectre de l’alcoolisation fœtale (TSAF) est la principale cause connue de troubles du développement évitables chez les Canadiens. Il touche le cerveau et le corps des personnes qui ont été exposées à l’alcool avant leur naissance. Les personnes atteintes du TSAF peuvent éprouver des troubles mentaux, physiques, comportementaux et d’apprentissage tout au long de leur vie. Elles peuvent également se heurter à certaines difficultés liées aux habiletés motrices, à la santé physique, à l’apprentissage, à la mémoire, à l’attention, à la régulation émotionnelle et aux aptitudes sociales. Le gouvernement du Canada reconnaît que le TSAF est un grave problème de santé publique et est résolu à aider les Canadiens à lutter contre ce trouble et à le prévenir.

L’honorable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, ministre de la Santé, a annoncé aujourd’hui qu’une somme de près de 1 million de dollars sur quatre ans sera versée à l’Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ) pour son projet intitulé TSAF : en parler pour mieux agir.

Dans le but de lutter contre la stigmatisation associée au TSAF partout au Québec, l’ASPQ élaborera et mettra en œuvre une campagne bilingue de sensibilisation pour diffuser des messages sur la prévention du TSAF et les risques que comporte la consommation d’alcool pendant la grossesse. Afin d’orienter la campagne, l’ASPQ aura recours à des analyses documentaires et à des sondages auprès de la population qui permettront de déterminer à quel point les Québécois connaissent et comprennent le TSAF et les préjugés connexes, ainsi que les pressions sociales qui y sont associées, la consommation d’alcool chez les femmes et les stratégies de marketing ciblant les femmes employées par l’industrie de l’alcool. (Plus d’infos…)