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How can we reduce the stigma associated with FASDs?

Evaluating activities to raise awareness about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)

Stigma is one of the biggest barriers associated with FASDs and drinking alcohol during pregnancy. It stems from societal beliefs that FASDs are a product of women’s personal decisions, even when a pregnancy is unplanned or a woman is unable to stop alcohol use without support. As a result, women feel shame and may not seek appropriate health services.

Health care providers are broadly aware of the health risk associated with alcohol use during pregnancy, but many have no professional training on how to talk about it with their patients. Furthermore, misinformation about drinking during pregnancy restricts prevention and management of FASDs throughout society.

Westat is evaluating the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s (NOFAS’s) activities for the promotion of resources for FASD awareness and prevention.

We are gathering timely data to inform and advance NOFAS’s FASD awareness-raising efforts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through in-depth interviews of

  • NOFAS-trained speakers who are birth mothers of children with FASDs
  • Obstetrician-gynecologist “champions” from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) paired with NOFAS speakers for medical educational events
  • Representatives of community-based organizations funded by NOFAS

NOFAS is using ongoing evaluation findings from Westat to improve and expand its initiatives.

Evaluation findings from the NOFAS-speakers and ACOG-champions initiative, in particular, have highlighted the success of this partnership and contributing to its growth. It is informing the educational model for health care providers that combines both medical facts and the patient’s perspective for an empathy-based understanding of the patient to help reduce stigma.

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