Our focus is on making Minnesota even better at preventing FASD and providing needed services, while we also strategically expand our work nationally.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) occur in up to 5% of school-aged children. Prevent FASD and care for those diagnosed with it by joining The SAFEST Choice Learning Collaborative.
The SAFEST Choice Learning Collaborative aims to reduce the incidence of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and improve outcomes in children with suspected or diagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). This program, a partnership between Proof Alliance and Boston Medical Center will use Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO®) virtual education to engage healthcare teams at community health centers (CHCs) in the Upper Midwest and New England in FASD education. Participation costs are completely covered by this program funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
CHCs will participate in Prenatal and/or Pediatric ECHO® cohorts to learn FASD specialty-specific core competencies. The Prenatal Cohort will learn how to screen for and counsel patients who can become pregnant about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy. The Pediatric Cohort will learn how to identify and care for children and adolescents with suspected or diagnosed FASD. Participation in both cohorts provides a streamlined approach for healthcare teams to address FASD across the lifespan with their patient population.
By becoming a SAFEST Choice Learning Collaborative participant, each CHC will receive:
– Free Continuing Education and Maintenance of Certification Part 2 credits
– Stipend of $6500 to support a Community Health Center Champion
Participation will begin in June 2021. After an introductory webinar there will be ten 60-minute virtual ECHO® sessions delivered over the course of 12 months. Each session will provide a brief lecture by experts, case-based learning and collaborative problem-solving. Participants will have access to resources to help them integrate new tools and workflows into their practice, which includes using quality improvement strategies to overcome any implementation challenges.
Participating practices are encouraged to invite all appropriate clinic staff who will be involved in implementation of FASD prevention and care. This may consist of family physicians, pediatricians, OB/GYNs, NPs, PAs, CNMs, other medical personnel, behavioral health staff, and paraprofessionals such as community health and outreach workers.
If you would like more information on how your community health center could be part of the SAFEST Choice Learning Collaborative, email Kendra Gludt at email@example.com.
Acknowledgement of Funding
This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $2.9 million with 100% funded by HRSA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.
Expand Screening and Diagnosing FASD in Children
If you can diagnose a child as having an FASD before age 6, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, you can help the child reach his or her full potential. This is a cornerstone of our work: screening for FASD and prenatal exposure to alcohol. “This is where it starts,” says Sara Messelt, Executive Director of Proof Alliance. “If a child can start out right, be correctly diagnosed and get the help they need, there’s so much more hope for their future.”
Sadly, only a small number are diagnosed each year, and Proof Alliance’s one diagnostic clinic has a nine-month waiting list. Most states do not even have diagnostic clinics, meaning thousands of children nationally are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed each year. A survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that only 50% of pediatricians felt prepared to make an FASD diagnosis.1
Build Greater Awareness of the Risks of Drinking While Pregnant
The facts are clear: there is no safe amount, no safe time and no safe kind of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. When a person consumes alcohol while pregnant, the developing baby does too. According to scientists, alcohol can damage every system in the body. “We have to scream about this problem to the world,” says one concerned researcher.
We get this. In 2019, we launched a powerful public awareness campaign on TV and social media in Minnesota about the health risks posed by drinking during pregnancy. We expanded the reach in early 2021 in partnership with Minnesota liquor stores, and together these campaigns have received a dramatic 56 million impressions. Now we are offering this campaign, along with branding and licensing to other states.
Proof Alliance NC Aims to Prevent FASD in North Carolina
Proof Alliance has developed an exciting pilot partnership with Proof Alliance NC. Proof Alliance NC is an initiative of The Arc of North Carolina. This effort between Proof Alliance and The Arc of North Carolina is aimed at expanding programming to support planned, alcohol-free pregnancies. The collaboration includes prevention campaigns, a website featuring the latest evidence-based public health information, and a training program that will result in dozens of professionals across the state of North Carolina becoming FASD-informed and facilitating prevention trainings in their own communities. For more information on this collaborative visit proofalliancenc.org.
Our Children Are Sacred:
A National Center to Reduce FASD in Indigenous Populations
While FASD is an issue across the nation, we recognize its impact is often more devastating in communities of black, Indigenous and people of color, given historical trauma, systemic racism and the results of unaddressed health issues. Proof Alliance has a history of working with Tribal Nations. In cooperation with the Casey Family Programs and its Indian Child Welfare Program, Proof Alliance is communicating the risks of drinking during pregnancy to tribal communities across the country.
Our Children Are Sacred co-creation team has been working with KAT marketing agency (which focuses on Native American messaging) and Casey Family Programs to bring FASD educational information via various communication outlets/platforms to tribes in Minnesota and beyond via the Good Health TV network and a customized Native Reach app. We continue to offer FASD information via virtual trainings including a 3-part webinar series about FASD in Indian Country. Please see the links to each recorded session below:
- Part One: FASD in Indian Country
- Part Two: Continuing the Discussion
- Part Three: The Medicine Wheel Approach to FASD
Proof Alliance has a long history of distributing grants to organizations and communities across the state. One of the grant programs we’re currently funding are Native American Community Grants amongst 4 grantees. Grantees are responsible for creating and implementing programming that focuses on culturally specific FASD prevention or support efforts. The current grant recipients are:
- Division of Indian Work (DIW)
- Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC)
- Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC)
- Native American Community Clinic (NACC)
As more opportunities begin for in-person gatherings, Proof Alliance will be active in attending Wacipis/Pow Wows and other community events with our prevention materials and educational outreach staff. If there is an event you think we should attend, please let us know. So far this summer we have attended events hosted by Indian Health Board and Division of Indian Works, Minneapolis Public School Youth Pow Wow and National Night Out event that focused on Indigenous Health.
Increase FASD-Informed Health Professionals and Others
Ongoing, up-to-date and research-based training about FASD is needed, and we are stepping up to lead the way. In Fall 2020, Proof Alliance and Boston Medical Center (BMC), one of the top U.S. medical research institutions, announced a new model of FASD training for pediatricians and those in perinatal care in community health centers in New England and the Midwest. “This training will help bridge a knowledge gap among providers and their teams about the prevalence and impact of FASD,” says the BMC program director.
This is an impressive beginning, but Proof Alliance’s priority is to expand these education offerings more broadly. “People living with FASD will only be successful if they have a community around them that understands their world,” says Sara Messelt, Executive Director of Proof Alliance.
Among the priorities are: online and in-person conferences that include sharing new research, best practices and strategies for diagnosis and prevention; replicable train-the-trainer programs; and a national forum that gathers experts to share cutting-edge research and promising practices/treatments.
We would love to have more alliance partners who are interested in expanding FASD prevention, training and diagnosis nation-wide. If you would like to step up or get more information, please reach out to Kendra Gludt at 651-917-2370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Chasnoff IJ, Wells AM, King L. Misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses in foster and adopted children with prenatal alcohol exposure. Pediatrics. 2015;135(2).