Over the past four decades the international community has sought to clarify the risks associated with maternal alcohol use and the associated disability of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Until recently, Australia has done little to raise awareness of FASD, study prevalence or assist individuals born with these disorders. A prevention program was initiated in 2008 in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia through the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service (OVAHS) in response to the local Aboriginal community’s concerns about the risks of maternal alcohol use.
Antenatal clients were assessed three times during their pregnancy. Information was gathered on their alcohol use pre and post pregnancy, and their awareness and knowledge of FASD. FASD education was also provided to the wider community and feedback was evaluated.
Assessment outcomes in the first year showed that the majority of women reported drinking alcohol at some point during their pregnancy. Over half reported nil further consumption post FASD education. In addition to these promising findings, the insight gained into the reasons behind alcohol consumption proved to be of equal importance to program development and delivery. Client evaluation of community based education indicated that many found the education sessions useful and transferable to their own family and community.
Assessment results indicating high levels of maternal alcohol use supported the need for raising awareness of the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure. Following a twelve month evaluation of the program, the findings demonstrated the effectiveness of a consultative, whole-of-community approach as a strategy to address this significant health issue.
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