Sarah Ward – Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE)
It’s the largest national campaign about alcohol, pregnancy, and breastfeeding that Australia has seen.
Every Moment Matters emphasises the message that ‘the moment you start trying, is the moment to stop drinking alcohol’.
I have been lucky enough to manage the campaign, launched by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) in late 2021, and be part of a team of people from a range of organisations who’ve made it happen.
People have been advocating for such an awareness campaign for many years, and it is great to see it come to fruition.
Why is it needed?
In Australia, conservative estimates are that two per cent of babies born each year have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is a neurodevelopmental condition caused when a developing baby is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. It is a lifelong disability.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the only known cause of FASD.
A 2021 Kantar Public study of almost 1,500 Australian women aged 18-44 years who were planning to have a baby, were pregnant, or would consider a baby in the next two years, found that:
- almost half (51 per cent) of the women surveyed were not aware that alcohol use could cause harm even in the first few weeks after conception
- more than two thirds (69 per cent) didn’t know that alcohol freely crosses the placenta to the developing baby.
It is important for people to know that the placenta is not a barrier to, and does not protect a developing baby from, alcohol. Alcohol passes freely from the mother’s blood to the baby’s blood via the placenta.
The developing baby’s blood alcohol level increases as the mother’s blood alcohol level increases.
Alcohol is a product that can kill cells and cause cellular abnormalities. Alcohol can impact the development of the baby at any time during the pregnancy. This is because different organs and body systems are developing at different times, including the initial weeks of a pregnancy.
How did we develop the campaign?
We’ve undertaken three stages of research to inform the launch of this first part of the campaign. This included:
Foundational research, which highlighted the need to determine and segment potential target audiences as to those who are persuadable, and that changes in their behaviour would likely make a significant impact on the numbers of alcohol-exposed pregnancies across Australia.
Formative research, which included a quantitative and qualitative research to determine the primary target audience, examine the factors that impact on the consumption of alcohol in pregnancy, and recommend messages that may be persuasive and motivate behavioural intentions.
Concept testing and refinement, which was undertaken by two rounds of focus group testing. This examined proposed creative concepts to determine which should progress as being most effective and motivating for the target audience.
Additionally, we’ve consulted with a range of people and organisations throughout the development of the campaign. This includes people living with FASD, parents and carers, FASD researchers and clinicians, women’s advocacy groups and health professionals and health professional colleges.
What happens next?
The campaign forms part of a broader health promotion program that will:
- provide information and training for a range of health professionals around the country, led by FARE
- deliver innovative health promotion activities with regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, led by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
- support women who are most at risk of having alcohol-exposed pregnancies, led by the National Organisation on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFASD Australia).
The campaign runs until July 2024 and will be evaluated by the University of Adelaide.
Sarah Ward is the National Health Campaign Manager at the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education.
Image: FARE/Every Moment Matters