UAA to Distribute Free Pregnancy Tests in Bars and Restaurants to Combat FAS Syndrome


The University of Alaska will distribute free pregnancy tests in the bathroom of 20 bars and restaurants across the state, beginning December.

The two-year, $400,000 state-funded research project aims at tackling Alaska's high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome. A woman can cause fetal alcohol syndrome in a developing fetus within a month of conception and before actually being aware of her pregnancy.

"This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see," said Jody Allen Crowe, who founded a Minnesota organization that leads a similar program and is helping with the project. "This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible," TIME reports.

Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Alaska) proposed the project in March to inundate bars and restaurants with tests to fight birth defects and substance abuse problems in Alaska.

Through the project, the researchers wanted to determine whether posters that caution pregnant women against drinking work better on pregnancy test dispensers or when simply hung on a wall.

"That's probably a relatively small percentage of women who will see the test kit dispenser and will actually use it," said David Driscoll, director for the University Of Alaska Anchorage Institute Of Circumpolar Health Studies, which proposed the study.

For the study, researchers plan to place the tests in three cities and rural hubs, where FASD-prevention messages displayed both on the dispensers and kits. In other cities, the same messages will be framed and placed on bar bathroom walls, but without the free test kits.

Alaskans will be encouraged to visit a website or call a toll-free number to complete a survey about the project. Researchers will also be interviewing bar patrons and staff.

Crowe said that wall-mounted pregnancy test dispensers with posters or artwork with FASD prevention messages are one foot wide and two feet tall. According to the project proposal, at least 5,000 tests will be distributed over 12 months.

"The Alaska effort is going to be very important to see empirical evidence. How does this impact the thinking of women in alcohol establishments?" Crowe said, Anchorage Daily News reports.

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