As the state with the highest rates of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in the U.S., Alaska is introducing a new campaign aimed at preventing pregnant women from drinking, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Starting in December, pregnancy tests will be placed in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants across the state.
The state-funded program initiated by researchers from the University of Alaska will study whether posters warning women of the dangers of drinking while pregnant are more effective when posted on pregnancy test dispensers, as opposed to simply being hung on the wall. Posters accompanying the pregnancy test will encourage women to participate in a phone or online survey about the project, in exchange for prizes. In addition to interviews with bar patrons and staff, the surveys will provide researchers with knowledge as to whether the project was effective.
Linked with brain damage and growth problems in children, fetal alcohol syndrome can occur in an unborn child within just one month of conception, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Because Alaskan women of child-bearing age are 20 percent more likely to engage in binge drinking than in other states nationwide, researchers hope the campaign will help women discover unexpected pregnancies early.
"This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see," Jody Allen Crowe, who started a similar initiative in Minnesota and is contributing to the project in Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News. "This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible."
Though researchers have said they will also supply condoms in every bathroom where pregnancy tests are distributed, the condoms will not be paid for by a state grant.