A conservative estimate is that nine out of every 1,000 babies in Canada are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). That means there are at least 41,679 affected British Columbians – roughly equivalent to the population of a small city.
FASD is the leading known preventable form of brain damage and developmental disability in Canada. September is FASD Prevention and Support Month in British Columbia and, every year, government proclaims September 9 as FASD Prevention and Support Day. Throughout B.C., communities mark the occasion by stressing the importance of supporting women to avoid alcohol during pregnancy and of recognizing those who live with FASD every day of their lives.
How to get involved
- Attend a local community FASD information event.
- Help organize or volunteer at a local community event.
- Display posters and other promotional materials throughout your community. To order posters and other promotional materials, visit: www.bcliquorstores.com/alcohol-pregnancy
- Promote non-alcoholic options by making mocktails. For recipes, see: www.beststart.org/resources/alc_reduction/LCBO_mocktail_Eng_LR.pdf
- Set up a display in local libraries or an information booth in malls.
- Connect with local restaurants and bars to invite their participation in recognizing the day by providing free non-alcoholic drinks for patrons who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
- Write an article or letter to the editor for your local newspaper.
- Co-ordinate FASD day activities with local schools.
- Have a poster contest to get kids involved in the issue.
- Submit an article for the school newsletter.
- Host an informational coffee break or invite your local public health nurse or FASD worker to give a presentation.
- Ring bells on the ninth minute of the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month (Sept. 9 at 9:09 a.m.).
Facts about FASD
- FASD has a broad social impact, with many individuals requiring lifelong support to cope. Health, social, educational and justice systems are involved, with the cost to Canada estimated at $5.3 billion per year.
- FASD is an umbrella term that describes the range of effects that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical, mental, behavioural and/or learning disabilities with lifelong implications.
- There is no known level of safe consumption for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed. The safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.
- Having a small amount of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant is not likely to harm your baby. Quitting now and looking after your own health are the best ways to ensure that you and your baby are healthy.
- If you are worried about your alcohol use, talk to your doctor, community health nurse, midwife or health-care provider. Your local public health unit, health centre, Friendship Centre or health authority can all provide you with help, information and advice.
- If you suspect that a family member may have FASD, talk with them about being diagnosed by a doctor. An early diagnosis can lead to interventions that will minimize the impact of FASD.
FASD supports in B.C.
- Promoting healthy practices during pregnancy through public education and awareness is part of B.C.’s 10-year Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Strategic Plan (2008-2018).
- In 2011, the B.C. government launched the Healthy Families BC strategy that includes Healthy Start. Healthy Start provides prenatal and postpartum support to all expectant mothers, and public health nurses work with at-risk mothers to promote healthy pregnancies.
- Regional health authorities, in partnership with the Provincial Health Services Authority, provide assessment and diagnosis services for children with complex developmental behavioural conditions, including children who may have FASD.
- The Ministry of Children and Family Development delivers the Key Worker and Parent Support program to give families personalized assistance and information specific to their needs.
- The Ministry of Education funds the Provincial Outreach Program for FASD to help teachers and other school district staff increase their understanding of FASD.
- Adults with FASD are able to seek services through Community Living BC’s Personalized Supports Initiative, introduced in 2010.
- A health resource written by women for women, to provide useful information about alcohol and to help women make healthy and well-informed choices about alcohol use: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/womenandalcoholresource2014.pdf
- The Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service: http://www.bc211.ca/adirs2.html
- Tips, tools and information for expectant mothers and new parents: www.bestchance.gov.bc.ca
- Information on healthy pregnancies and raising a healthy family: www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca
- Information on programs to assist children and families: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/fasd
- Help for educators in meeting the learning needs of students with FASD: www.fasdoutreach.ca
- BC Liquor Stores’ FASD awareness posters and brochures, including ordering information: www.bcliquorstores.com/alcohol-pregnancy