Alcohol Research Roundtable at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Dr. Susan Rich, President and Founder of 7th Generation Foundation, Inc. – BSTS’s parent organization, was one of three guest speakers on friday december 5th at a roundtable discussion at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (http://www.pcrm.org/about/about/about-pcrm) in Washington, DC. 
To view the roundtable agenda see PCRM Agenda
PCRM is dedicated to “dramatically changing the way doctors treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. By putting prevention over pills, doctors are empowering their patients to take control of their own health.”  The nonprofit has recently redirected its efforts toward research funding and policy related to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. PCRM has partnered with Dr. Rich to help highlight solutions to prevent the epidemic caused by our social drug of choice: alcohol.
 
More than 40 years of animal and human research since Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was characterized in 1973 by Drs. Ken Jones and David Smith has shown that alcohol is a neurotoxin and teratogen (cause of birth defects).  In 1981, Dr. Kathleen Sulik of the University of North Carolina showed that these problems occur as early as the late 3rd to early 4th week after conception – long before most women know they are pregnant.  It is not enough to focus prevention of FASD/ND-PAE on pregnant women and put a tiny label on alcohol.  Over 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and few Americans understand that this condition happens as early as the first few weeks.
Each year, the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funds $30 million toward FASD research – $17 million devoted to animal research, rather than evaluating effective ways to prevent and treat FASD/ND-PAE in people.  Montgomery County, MD where NIAAA is located earns $30 million in profit from the sales of alcohol – equivalent to the entire national budget of NIAAA FASD research. Yet not one warning sign is posted by the local liquor control board or anywhere else in Maryland to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy or prior to pregnancy recognition (41 other states have adopted such point of purchase signage).
Dr. Rich shared her insights and highlighted the Better Safe than Sorry Project at the roundtable to promote more effective FASD/ND-PAE prevention research.

FASD Matters. Impressions from the 2014 MOFAS conference “FASD and Human Rights”

 MOFASSusan
I’m delighted to be a visiting scholar for the University of Minnesota’s Department of Child Psychiatry this week.  I had the opportunity to meet with many people from the Department who are doing amazing work to prevent and treat Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  I presented at the MOFAS  “FASD and Human Rights” conference today:  “From Deinstitutionalization to Incarceration –  The Human Rights Tragedy of FASD”. Perhaps more than any other agency in the country, MOFAS has taken the lead to address the leading preventable cause of neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disability in the world.  Up to 50% of the 60,000 children adopted from Russia and the former Soviet countries have some degree of this problem and 1 in 20 (5%) of school age American children in middle class families are affected.  These statistics are not surprising given that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and there are epidemic rates of childbearing age women binge drinking.
 

The efforts of the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have led to pregnancy test kits being put in some of the bars in this state to help women stop and think about whether they might be pregnant before they buy a drink.  It’s a great idea, and a novel prevention approach.  It will hopefully help non-pregnant alcohol consumers “stop and think” about preventing pregnancy before they drink.  Though it’s only in 4 bars in the state, if this effort prevents only 4 children from having FAS, the state would save $850,000 per child, accounting for years of productive life lost and healthcare/mental health/delinquency costs.  That would be nearly $1.5M the state could put toward educating its future citizens, creating opportunities for resources for families and prevention of this condition.
While pregnancy test kits are at least further upstream than the tiny warning label on alcohol, I’m our Better Safe than Sorry campaign goes to the small tributaries where the salmon are spawning.  By alcohol consumers preventing pregnancy (through contraception) and avoiding alcohol if pregnant or planning a pregnancy, we will be able to stem the tide on this preventable epidemic.  That’s why we say – It’s Better Safe than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix! 
Simply put – If you use alcohol, contracept! 
For more information:
MOM. LOVE. HOPE. JOY. Three inspiring words and emotions most women experience during pregnancy: Check out MOFAS new campaign 049 ZERO ALCOHOL FOR NINE MONTHS  
http://www.mofas.org/drinking-pregnancy/049-2/

MOFAS

FASD Awareness Day 2014 “Bring on the Beer and Pass Out the Condoms”

Our Better Safe than Sorry Project effort with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington in recognition of FASD Awareness Day was a success.  Six volunteers distributed condoms at a booth outside The Barking Dog bar in Bethesda, Maryland on Saturday evening (before the party crowd).  Our aim was to test the idea as a pilot project, to gather reactions from pedestrians and patrons, and to learn more for future campaign events.

Booth

Our display booth with free condoms was visited by a number of pedestrians and bar patrons.

Table with condoms

Informational condom cards made a nice display with the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning cards by the bathroom door.

 Bathroom stalls

We posted posters behind the bathroom stalls where customers could read over the information in privacy.

Top 10 BSTS Lessons Learned about Condom Distribution:

  1.  Female bartenders felt passing a condom with the first drink of the evening would seem like a proposition. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that???

  1.  50 and 60-somethings agreed to share the informational condom pocket cards with their 20 and 30-somethings (who were partying elsewhere) – men seemed more open than women.

  1.  A scientist from the Environmental Protection Agency now knows that prenatal alcohol exposure affects 2-6% of American children – a bigger problem than environmental chemicals!

  1.  Most people thought that the CDC rate of 1 in 8 (13%) underestimated true numbers of college women binge drinking and were shocked that 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned.

  2.  When passing a condom to a pedestrian, do so discretely (i.e., whisper, don’t shout – “Use a condom if you drink alcohol!”).

Pass it on –  Contracept if you drink alcohol to prevent FASD!!!!

Free Condoms at the Barking Dog Bar and Grill for FASD Awareness Day

In recognition of FASD Awareness Day, on September 6th, the Better Safe than Sorry Project Team will be at the Barking Dog pub in Bethesda, MD distributing 999 condoms and informational materials about FASD.

The condoms were donated by the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.  For each first drink of the evening purchased, patrons of the bar will receive a condom with a bookmark cover to promote contraception for alcohol consumers.  BSTS project volunteers will provide information and a brief discussion about FASD for those who express interest in learning more.

 front of condom cover  inside of condom cover Back of condom cover

Our project concept was developed by our interns after the idea was suggested during one of our summer talk show segments.  From a primary prevention perspective, It’s a little further “upstream” approach than the pregnancy test kits in bars – another extraordinarily innovative project implemented in Minnesota and Alaska.

STOP our social drug of choice from affecting 2-6% of school aged children with preventable brain damage.  Just like HIV/AIDS & STD prevention, help spread the word to “contracept if you use alcohol!” 

Special thanks to BSTS volunteers Melissa Blair and Nick Muzic, BSTS interns Sydnie Butin, Juliana Pietri, Carlye Hillman, Kaitlyn Gularson, and Nathalie Pollack, and our fabulous BSTS Blog Master, Daniela Mielke for creating and implementing the innovative FASD Awareness Day prevention project. We are also thankful to the Barking Dog bar and grill for letting us promote our project there and to Robert Ridley of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington for donating the condoms.

Prevention Approaches in Australia

BSTS Blog Series: “Protecting unborn babies from alcohol-related harm”

Written by Nathalie P

Prevention Approaches in Australia

At first glance, it seems outrageous that children with FASD can’t have a normal life because their mother’s irresponsible decision to use alcohol during pregnancy. In some communities, the high prevalence rates of alcoholism and social pressures make alcohol abuse common during pregnancy. The “Lililwan Project” has been established to study the prevalence of FASD in Australia where rates are high among indigenous (aboriginal) populations. The project aims to help children with FASD by involving families, doctors, and teachers to address their unique learning and developmental issues. It also raises awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. These efforts have led to some aboriginal groups in Western Australia taking action to prevent FASD by successfully limiting the sales of hard liquor in their communities.

My question is – if small communities in Australia are able to get the message out that alcohol use at any point in pregnancy is dangerous, what is stopping us from spreading the word throughout the U.S.?