Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme Launch

07 Sep 15


Early Childhood Development Centre established to strengthen positive impact of programme

Fetal Alcohol Awareness Day SAB FASThe Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), in partnership with the Eastern Cape Liquor Board and SAB has established a high impact programme to help prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in babies born to mothers in the community of Bethelsdorp, 25km outside of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.  

Launching the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme

The Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme (HMHB) was launched today, coinciding with the annual International FASD Awareness Day, which is commemorated to raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and to call upon communities to support pregnant women and encourage them not to use alcohol during pregnancy. As a means of strengthening the positive impact of the programme, FARR and SAB have established an Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD) in Bethelsdorp to provide formal child care enabling mothers to return to work confident that their children are well looked after.  The fully functional and well-equipped ECD will initially accommodate a total of 40 children between the ages of 2 and 6 years in two classrooms.  

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

FAS is the most severe form of FASD and the most common cause of mental disability in the world. The condition is caused by a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.  Children born with FASD have permanent, irreversible brain damage.  It is however 100% preventable through adequate support provided to pregnant women and increased awareness. “The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has been immensely concerned with the lack of scientific data on FASD in the Eastern Cape, and invariably the FASD project in Bethelsdorp will act as a significant launch pad for our interventions that seek to alleviate the scourge of FAS. “We have also realised that in order to defeat this social ill, it is imperative that relevant stakeholders integrate their efforts. We are fully cognisant of the adverse impact of the FASD on the country’s fiscus, hence it is critical to take all necessary steps to ensure that it is eradicated” says ECLB CEO, Mr K.C Maneli.  

FASD research and prevention

FARR and its partners, the ECLB and SAB, believe that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy and have worked closely to ensure that a comprehensive FASD research and prevention project was developed for the benefit and well-being of the entire Bethelsdorp community. “FARR strongly believes that the problem of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can only be adequately addressed if all the stakeholders and role players share the responsibility of awareness and prevention on all levels of society, ” says FARR CEO, Leana Olivier. FASD Prevalence studies conducted by FARR since 1997 indicate that South Africa has the highest reported FASD rates in the world, particularly in areas within the Gauteng, Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces. In these provinces, FARR has conducted 9 FASD prevalence studies and implemented 24 Awareness and Prevention projects over the past 18 years.  

How the HMHB programme came about

In 2007, SAB first funded a Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme in the Northern Cape town of De Aar. “SAB has a very targeted approach towards building strong South African communities that is aligned to our global sustainable development framework, Prosper.  One of its key imperatives is to encourage responsible consumption and to shape a sociable world where our beers are developed, marketed, sold, and consumed with high regard for individual and community wellbeing. “It makes business sense for SAB for people to drink responsibly because a healthy society enables a thriving business environment.  To help us achieve this aim, SAB has over the years initiated several hard hitting programmes to tackle alcohol abuse and our efforts with FAS is one of these interventions.  Like our partners, FARR and the ECLB, we strongly advocate that expecting mothers should not consume any alcohol for their own health and safety of their babies, ” says Monwabisi Fandeso, SAB Executive Director Corporate Affairs and Transformation. In 2012, the ECLB approached FARR with the intention of starting a 3-year FAS Prevalence study and an Awareness and Prevention Programme in Bethelsdorp, the first of its kind in the Eastern Cape, and funded by SAB. The project is offered in close collaboration with the Departments of Health, Social Development and Education and strives to strengthen the services already provided by these departments. The prevalence study, currently in its final stages, included medical examinations and neurodevelopment assessments undertaken by Medical and Primary Health Care Specialists on learners across 14 primary schools randomly selected in Bethelsdorp and neighbouring Helenvale over a period of 2 years.  Parents of all participant learners were invited to voluntarily enrol their children in the study and to provide informed consent. In addition to assessments on learners, mothers participated in maternal interviews as a means of obtaining information about their prenatal history.  The final phase of the study provided support and training to the parents, as well as the training of Foundation Phase Educators.  The training gives educators the ability to identify learners with difficulties and to adapt their teaching according to their specific needs. The research findings were used to develop and customise the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby (HMHB) programme to be implemented in Bethelsdorp, which begins the Awareness and Prevention phase.  

Addressing psycho-social challenges

The HMHB programme will address many of the health and psycho-social challenges identified during the study.  Of particular importance is nutrition, depression, exercise and substance abuse.  The project will be offered to all the pregnant, women, whether or not they are consumers of alcohol, at selected clinics in the area and will strive to support them to have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies. The principles of the programme are in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Department of Health’s Antenatal Programme. Social workers and health professionals will receive training to include aspects of the HMHB Programme in their day-to-day programmes.  This enables them to play a role in the awareness and prevention of FASD and help to support and manage individuals and their families who are affected by the condition.