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Great Britain: Increasing Awareness about the Dangers of Drinking During Pregnancy

Case study

Since 2008 Diageo has funded the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS-UK) to educate midwives and student midwives about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioural, and/or learning disabilities with lifelong implications. NOFAS-UK promotes education for professionals and public awareness about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, in particular raising awareness of the possible impact on the developing brain. To date, the programme has reached over 15,000 midwives, with an estimated reach of more than 1 million expectant mothers.

NOFAS-UK welcomed the 2016 Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidance that “the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all” if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, which helped to clarify for midwives the message they should give. While earlier in the project the focus was on face-to-face training, NOFAS-UK more recently has focused on having materials included in midwife training programmes. This work is ongoing and exciting in its potential reach. An online video developed for this project, “No Alcohol, No Risk,” has been viewed to date more than 14,700 times (by 8,400 midwives and 6,300 others).” More than 1,100 midwives booklets have been distributed thus far in 2017-2018, with the majority of those going to student midwives.  Common sense advice about avoiding the risks of alcohol in pregnancy is spreading. But there is still a need for more.

In 2017, NOFAS-UK launched the first phase of a new project to raise General Practitioners’ (GP) awareness and understanding of FASD - as they are often the first point of contact for pregnant women. Polls conducted to mark FASD Awareness Day in September, revealed the need for more education and guidance for GPs about the risks associated with alcohol in pregnancy.. Among the findings, only thirty-one percent of the GPs said they had in-depth education regarding FASD. Forty-seven per cent said it should be more thoroughly taught in medical school. Forty-one per cent said they have not received clear guidance from their local Clinical Commissioning Group regarding a pathway for diagnosis and support of FASD. Only 23% felt ‘strongly confident’ that all those with a Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder are being diagnosed properly. The project is therefore aimed at offering GPs tools required to have these discussions with pregnant women and how to help identify FASD

About 1,500 ‘pre-launch copies of a draft booklet, ‘Recognising and Preventing Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder’ written by Joanna Buckard, were rolled out to GPs for review. The final version is due out this year after review for possible endorsement from the Surrey National Health Service (NHS) Trust and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

20,000 posters were also produced for distribution to various surgeries and partners including the Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership. It is expected that these posters and the booklet will reach thousands of GPs nationwide. As an example, the RCGP Conference in Liverpool, where the materials were also trialled, reached more than 1,600 GPs and healthcare professionals. NOFAS-UK is also targeting Clinical Commissioning Groups, tasked by Government with providing FASD services.  As with the midwives materials, NOFAS-UK also considers its materials useful resources for patients to discuss concerns with their medical professionals. Our GP video (above) has been viewed more than 16,400 times in social media since August 2017.

NOFAS-UK continues to receive feedback that FASD training should be mandatory for midwives and other medical professionals. It seeks to take this issue higher with the relevant institutions. Diageo remains committed to supporting the efforts of NOFAS-UK to prevent drinking during pregnancy.