Drinking and congenital birth defects: alcohol awareness in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia

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Publication details

Yeigh, T & Kean, B 2005, 'Drinking and congenital birth defects: alcohol awareness in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia', International Electronic Journal of Health Education, vol. 8, pp. 153-166.

Peer Reviewed



Purpose: Guidelines developed to minimise the risk of harm associated with alcohol consumption in Australia focus on promoting population health by changing cultural attitudes. This research study was conducted to uncover attitudes toward maternal drinking and awareness of alcohol-related birth defects within the semi-rural Northern Rivers area of New South Wales (NSW) Australia, December 2003 to April 2004. A pilot survey was conducted using a sample of convenience to gain initial insights into these perceptions at the local level. 162 people took part in the survey, with 57 declining. Findings: 69.8% of respondents answered ‘Yes’ to the survey question, “Should women drink during pregnancy?”. Overall responses to the survey showed a general trend in favour of drinking 4 – 8 glasses of beer or wine per week during pregnancy. Analyses of gender, age and level of education revealed that a moderating relationship exists between alcohol attitudes and level of education, with education negatively related to recommended alcohol quantity, and positively related to whether the respondent knew about alcohol-related birth defects. Discussion: These findings support the recommendations of both the National Alcohol Strategy, 2001 – 2003 and the NSW Alcohol Summit (2003) by suggesting that education remains an important consideration in terms of mapping effective attitudinal change. Recommended that an accurate measure of Australian alcoholrelated birth defects be sought, and educational programs used to raise social awareness toward maternal drinking issues. Further research should seek a more representative sample and investigate urban/rural differences.

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