CANFASD: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Women in Science Logo

The United Nations designated February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to highlight the lack of gender diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. This statistic highlights just how important it is to encourage women and girls to enter these fields, and to celebrate the work that female scientists are doing to understand and improve our world.

Research is an integral part of how CanFASD functions. Our goal as an organization is to conduct research to better understand fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and then use this research to develop evidence-based policies, programs, and resources to improve FASD prevention, diagnosis, and intervention.

At CanFASD, we are fortunate to have such strong representation from women on our research team. To celebrate February 11th and the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’d like to share some words of wisdom from these incredible researchers to maybe encourage you to get involved with FASD research.


What does research mean to you? 

“My path to research was grounded in curiosity and after working in the trenches of child welfare for 16 years. I wanted to make a difference by engaging in research and influencing systems, policy and practice. There are two researchers among many who have influenced my work, Dr. Nancy Poole and Dr. Deb Rutman. I also get to see emerging scholars and CanFASD researchers who consistently strive for excellence in conducting and promoting research on one of the most vulnerable, marginalized, stigmatized and oppressed groups of people – individuals with FASD. We recognize the journey of struggle in women’s lives that lead to FASD and we strive to humanize these experiences through this research.”

– Dr. Dorothy Badry

Dr. Badry is a researcher and educator in the Social Sciences in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary. It is a true privilege for her to be a research lead with the CanFASD Research Network in the area of Child Welfare and to collaborate with other amazing women researchers across Canada and internationally. She aspires to research those edgy, uncomfortable spaces in the lives of children and families, women’s health, and substance use, and finds it incredibly hard and rewarding work. Her most recent publication is the FASD and Child Welfare issue paper, outlining the landscape of FASD and child welfare in Canada.


Why do you love science? 

“I love science because it’s so innovative. It’s exciting to learn things from different areas and to be able to apply these in different ways to your own work. Science has traditionally been a male-dominated field, but women are just as successful, just an inquiring and just as inspirational with their work and in their leadership. It’s exciting to see work being done to reduce the gender gap in STEM.”

– Dr. Jocelynn Cook

Dr. Cook is a Diagnostic Research Co-Lead with CanFASD. Jocelynn also works with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) as their first Scientific Director. She is currently working with CanFASD to analyze data from the National FASD Database, an initiative that she helped to spearhead in 2017. This database is the only comprehensive FASD database in the world. It collects diagnostic information from clinics across Canada to give researchers a better understanding of the landscape of FASD in our country.



Why do you think it is important to have women in science? 

“I think it is important to have women in science in order to give girls role-models to look up to. Where there is a lack of women present, there is a lack of diversity in perspectives and a lack of female input into important issues. For me, being a woman in science is to be someone that works for the betterment of the unique populations that we serve. In my work, that means wanting to make meaningful changes for people with FASD, their families, and their communities.”

– Dr. Kelly Coons-Harding

Dr. Coons-Harding is a Research Associate with CanFASD. Her research interests focus primarily on the knowledge and attitudes that health care professionals have surrounding FASD and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Kelly has published a number of articles, including papers about health care students’ attitudes about alcohol consumption during pregnancy and Ontario health care professionals’ understanding of FASD. Kelly’s is currently researching the culture and attitudes surrounding alcohol consumption among women, particularly the rise of the “wine mom” (blog coming soon).



Do you have any advice for women and girls looking to get into science? 

“Follow your heart and pursue your passions. Thinking differently and approaching challenges uniquely are strengths we bring to problem solving. I was once told by a mentor that my perceived challenges with balancing motherhood and research were actually my strengths as these parts of my life provided a healthy combination of challenge, perspective, and creative thought. This shifted my perspective and I’ve never looked back.”

– Dr. Jacqueline Pei

Dr. Pei is CanFASD’s Senior Research Lead. She works in the area of FASD intervention, conducting research and developing resources to support individuals with FASD in their daily lives and improve their future outcomes. She places the greatest value on her work with various community and government agencies. Her most recent publication is the Towards Healthy Outcomes for Individuals with FASD model, outlining the steps needed to ensure that effective approaches to FASD intervention are implemented across an individual’s lifespan.



Learn more about their amazing researchers here.


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CANFASD: Alcohol-Related Deaths Are On The Rise

New research out of the United States has found that the rates of death from alcohol in women have risen by an unprecedented 85% between 1999 and 2017. Conversely, the death rates related to alcohol in males rose by 35% in the same time period.

Overall, the increase in death rates rose by over half, which indicates that alcohol is an increasingly growing public health concern.

Even more troubling is the fact that these numbers might actually be higher than this study suggests. In some situations, alcohol may not have been recorded as a cause of death when intoxication may have played a factor. For example, if someone who was intoxicated fell and hit their head, the head injury would have been listed on the death certificate but the alcohol that caused the fall may not be.

However, the researchers can’t confirm why we’re seeing an increase in alcohol-related deaths and injuries because there are  a number of other factors to consider:

  1. The overall rates of teenage drinking are actually decreasing, so these findings may be a result of population demographics shifting as the “baby boomer” generation ages.
  2. The increase may reflect the rise in opioid-related deaths, many of which also involve alcohol.
  3. Feminist movements are doing a great job of promoting gender equality, but this movement may be impacting women’s drinking habits, resulting in higher rates of consumption.
  4. Recent research findings suggest that alcohol does more harm to women than men, especially in relation to increasing the risk of certain cancers. Increases in alcohol-related deaths in women may be a result of increased risk, and not an indication that alcohol consumption is on the rise.

Regardless, these findings indicate that alcohol is a growing public health issue, and a fast-growing women’s health issue. Although legal throughout Canada, this substance can have serious health and social consequences for all Canadians. We need to engage in more open and honest conversations about alcohol, our relationships with this substance, the risks associated with drinking, and the social and cultural norms surrounding alcohol consumption.

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Why ‘Mommy Juice’ is total BS

Former evangelists of mommy wine culture are having second thoughts.

Emily Lynn Paulson drank in college and after she graduated, but it wasn’t until she became a mom that she really went all in.

“You’d think that wouldn’t be the case,” Paulson, a mother of five, told HuffPost. “But everything seemed to have wine added to it. There were playdates with wine. Every mommy get-together had wine. … I had that T-shirt that said ‘Prosecco made me do it.’”

“It was almost like, how can you survive motherhood without this substance,” Paulson said.

Mommy wine culture has been raging for years, with funny memes, cutesy apparel and tchotchkes peddled on Etsy and Amazon, and Facebook groups galore (Mommy Needs Wine, Mommy Needs Some Wine, Mommy Wine Time, etc.). In those circles it’s not just alcohol ― it’s mom juice. Mom fuel. It’s an easy and much-needed way for women to eke out some time to relax while doing the relentless work of raising young kids. And the alcohol industry has definitely taken notice, marketing directly to women.

But some of mommy wine culture’s biggest proponents are now sounding the alarm, arguing that the normalization of wine culture isn’t so much giving women an outlet for self-care as it’s potentially harming their health.

On a broader level, America certainly appears to have a bit of an alcohol problem. A new study, published in January in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that alcohol-related deaths in the United States doubled between 1999 and 2007 — with the largest increase among non-Hispanic white women. And a 2017 study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that problem drinking, defined as drinking to the point where it interferes with your life or you are unable to stop, jumped by more than 80% among American women between 2002 and 2013.

Although there is no evidence that the flowering of mommy wine culture is directly fueling that trend, findings like that tend to undermine the idea that drinking alcohol is something one does to take care of oneself. For years, we’ve been told that moderate drinking may — may — confer some health benefits. But there’s just as much evidence to suggest the opposite.

Click here for full article.

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Global News: Alberta Premier Announces Money for 76 New Addiction Treatment Beds

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced funding for dozens of spaces at private addictions treatment facilities, saying that addressing addictions is a priority even as the province trims spending during tough times.

Kenney told an audience at Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary on Saturday the addictions crisis in recent years is being fuelled by economic despair, and that the funding follows a commitment his government made last year to fund 4,000 spaces in treatment centres over three years.

The announcement comes after Kenney said earlier this month that the province could close or relocate supervised drug consumption sites based on a panel report he says affirms concerns the sites are causing disruption in surrounding neighbourhoods.

READ MORE: Kenney announces funding for 4,000 addictions treatment spaces in Alberta

Fresh Start will receive up to $1.6 million each year to fund 30 of its 50 beds which translates to nearly 300 treatment spaces over three years. Kenney says only one bed is currently publicly funded.

Click here for full article.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.


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Payment Date Change for AISH and Income Support

Starting March 2020, the monthly payment date for Albertans receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support is changing to the first of the month.

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Previously, the payment date was a few days before the beginning of the month, with the actual date of payment varying from month-to-month. Having a consistent and predictable payment date aligns recipients’ monthly income and monthly costs. This change should help Albertans receiving payments better plan and budget for expenses from one month to the next.

When the first of the month is a weekend or holiday, payments will be deposited or mailed on the last business day of the previous month. For example: March 1st is a Sunday, and the payment date for AISH and Income Support is Friday, February 28.

How recipients can prepare

  • Visit to view the 2020 payment schedule.
  • Call a caseworker or Alberta Supports (1- 877-644-9992) to sign up for direct deposit, if currently receiving payment by cheque.
  • Adjust the timing of monthly bills if needed.

Quick Facts

  • Approximately 97 per cent of AISH and Income Support recipients receive benefits via direct deposit.
  • Clients with direct deposit receive benefits on the payment date.
  • Clients receiving benefits by cheque will receive benefits in the mail on the payment date or within three business days.

CANFASD: New Year’s Resolution: Addressing Stigma

Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, has just released a report summarizing the state of public healthcare in Canada. The 2019 report lists stigma as the major public health concern impacting the health and wellbeing of all Canadians.

Stigma is a negative stereotype or a “labelling of differences” that begins to separate people into categories of “us” and “them”. Stigma acts as a barrier, influencing an individual’s willingness to seek help, their access to services, and the quality of care that they receive. As we move into a new decade we’re very pleased to see that Canada is placing a strong focus on addressing stigma at an individual level, an institutional level, a community level, and at a national level.


In our field, we know only too well the impact that stigma can have on the health of Canadians. Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and their caregivers experience stigma on a daily basis. Despite the fact that FASD affects approximately 4% of Canadians (more than cerebral palsy, autism, and Down syndrome combined), the disorder is not well understood by the majority of our population. As a result, the challenges individuals with FASD face with emotional regulation and social interaction are often seen as “bad behaviour” and “poor life choices” by our society. This stigma impacts every aspect of their lives, from employment and education to involvement with the justice system and everything in between. Additionally, mental health issues and substance use disorders frequently co-occur with FASD. As a result, individuals with FASD face stigma in a number of different forms.

We’ve developed online training courses for community members and frontline workers to help them better understand FASD and give them tools to improve service provision for individuals with FASD. This is just one of the ways we are working to overcome stigma at an individual, institution, community, and national level.


The stigma surrounding substance use, particularly surrounding substance use and pregnancy, is also a major barrier to FASD prevention efforts and FASD diagnosis. Pregnant women using substances often experience feelings of shame and depression that can impact their mental health and relationships with their families. Fear of judgement from service providers prevents women from accessing the necessary pregnancy and treatment supports they need.

Disclosing substance use during pregnancy can be an important factor in receiving an  FASD diagnosis for a child. However, the stigma surrounding substance use during pregnancy, and the judgement and discrimination that women experience from service providers often inhibits this disclosure.

The portrayal of the fictional “Cynthia” in this report paints a very real picture of the experiences pregnant women using substances have had with the healthcare system. Informed by very similar experiences from real-world mothers, the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health developed a wonderful resource that provides service providers in the substance use treatment and child welfare fields the tools to work collaboratively to improve the health of women and children in Canada.

We are heartened by the focus and attention that organizations across Canada are giving to better understand and address stigma in their practices. However, there is more work to be done. As an organization we are thrilled that Canada’s leadership is taking preliminary steps to raise awareness of the impacts of stigma and improve healthcare policies and practices to better health outcomes for Canadians. We look forward to seeing the impact this national attention will have on the treatment and service provision for both pregnant mothers using substances and individuals with FASD and their families.


As an organization, our New Year’s resolution is to continue to conduct research on FASD and stigma and to develop evidence-based resources to address the role that stigma plays in hindering FASD prevention, diagnosis, and supports. We look forward to the opportunity to lend our voices to Dr. Tam and her team of experts working so diligently to address stigma in Canada.


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