CanFASD: Prevention

About FASD Prevention

Canadian prevention specialists have identified four mutually reinforcing prevention approaches as effective in delivering FASD prevention, linked to overall policy strategies. The four levels span general and specific practices that assist women to improve their health and the health of their children, with support from family, support networks, services and community.

The first level of prevention is about raising public awareness through campaigns and other broad strategies. Public policy initiatives and health promotion activities supportive of girls’ and women’s health are also key to this level of prevention. The inclusion of a broad range of people at the community level is important to advancing social support and change.

The second level of prevention is about girls and women of childbearing years having the opportunity for safe discussion about reproductive health, contraception, pregnancy, alcohol use, and related issues, with their support networks and healthcare providers.

The third level of prevention concerns the provision of supportive services that are specialized, culturally safe and accessible for women with alcohol problems, histories of violence and trauma and related health concerns. These trauma-informed, harm-reduction-oriented recovery services are needed not only for pregnant women, but also before pregnancy and throughout the childbearing years.

The fourth level of prevention is about supporting new mothers to maintain healthy changes they have been able to make during pregnancy. Postpartum support for mothers who were not able to make significant changes in their substance use during pregnancy is also vital to assist them to continue to improve their health and social support, as well as the health of their children.

Supportive alcohol policy is at the centre of the four mutually reinforcing levels of prevention. Evidence-based alcohol policies, when widely implemented, have considerable potential to reduce the health and social harms from alcohol, including influencing rates of FASD through each level. Alcohol policies are critical because they determine the availability of alcohol and other aspects of the environment in which decisions about drinking are made.

Supportive child welfare policy – It is also important that maternal/child health and substance use policy is in alignment with child welfare policy to ensure that care is wrapped around the mother child unit, and women are not afraid to access prenatal care out of fear of losing custody.

Two Key documents on FASD prevention

Over the past decade, prevention experts working with CanFASD have collaboratively created the following key documents to guide FASD prevention work in Canada.

Consensus Statement on 10 Fundamental Components of FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective – Ten fundamental components of FASD prevention emerged from a working session of the Network Action Team on FASD prevention. is session was held in Victoria, B.C., in March 2009, and was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. is consensus document weaves together a range of sources—women’s experiences, peer-reviewed research, published articles, as well as expert evidence—to create a clear message regarding the importance of FASD prevention from a women’s health determinants perspective.

Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – A multi-level model – This issue paper summarizes what has been learned about the prevention of FASD in the course of implementation of prevention initiatives across Canada and describes the four levels of FASD prevention.