The Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme has recently been launched in De Aar in the Northern Cape by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) to guide expectant and new mothers through the exciting process of pregnancy, with advice on how to stay healthy.
Being a healthy mother during pregnancy and after giving birth is essential to the development and health of a newborn baby. This programme provides women with the necessary knowledge to strengthen the maternal bond during pregnancy and after birth.
"The maternal bond during and after pregnancy is significant in the development of one's baby, but not everyone has access to the right information about how to develop that bond," says Leana Olivier, CEO of FARR. "Many pregnancies are often unplanned and because of personal and economic difficulties, are not always welcomed with the same fanfare and excitement as the birth of a child should be celebrated."
During the course of the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme women are provided with general information on healthy habits and dangers during pregnancy, exposure to educational DVDs (such as the Johnson & Johnson and University of Stellenbosch "Your Pregnancy, Your Baby" DVD series), relevant literature and counselling by a community worker. The women are also given the opportunity to meet with and ask questions to professionals such as nurses, doctors, dieticians and physiotherapists. As the importance of stimulation after birth is also stressed, mothers on the programme are taught how to make "stimulation toys" from waste material such as empty plastic bottles, toilet rolls, or coat-hangers and the like.
"Because of the ongoing support and sponsorship of the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) and corporates like the FirstRand Foundation, we have been able to initiate and maintain programmes of this nature in this community and train our community health workers. This is no easy task and to run a comprehensive FARR awareness, prevention, management and research programme costs on average approximately R1-million per year," added Olivier.
These community workers, trained and employed by FARR, conduct individualised programmes with the pregnant women and visit the mothers after the birth of their babies. Nine months later they are then invited to attend a free clinic at the Joan Wertheim Centre in De Aar where specialist examinations and administrations are provided for them. This includes a clinical examination and a neuro-developmental assessment on the child.
In addition to this, each mother on the programme receives a "My Special Pregnancy Booklet" where they are encouraged to keep records of their pregnancy progress and add information after each visit to the clinic that they believe is pertinent to them and their unborn baby. The booklet also includes relevant information on healthy nutrition during pregnancy, preparation for breastfeeding, the harmful effects of substance abuse, especially alcohol on the development of the unborn baby.
FARR works in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Development and together strive to provide the women in the Northern Cape region with the necessary information to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their own health and the health of their unborn babies. Currently De Aar has the highest reported rate of FASD in the world. This rate is rapidly declining due to the FASD prevention programme based on support from the public and private service providers as well as the local community.
"We are extremely proud of FARR's efforts in this community that so desperately needs it. To enable FARR to extend its training and education role, the ARA has funded the establishment of a FARR Training Academy. Through this Academy caregivers and professionals will continue to receive training to implement initiatives like the Healthy Mother Healthy Baby programme in other communities as well," added Adrian Botha, Director for ARA.
The ARA is an association comprising members that include the major manufacturers of alcohol beverages in South Africa, such as SAB Ltd, members of the SA Liquor Brandowners Association (which include Distell, Brandhouse, KWV, Douglas Green Bellingham, & Co, Pernod-Ricard and The Really Great Brand Company amongst others), E Snell & Co Ltd, members of VinPro and members of Wine Cellars SA. A number of distributors and some retail chains such as Tops and Diamond Liquors have been welcomed as associate members.
The ARA is registered as a non-profit organization (NPO) with the Department of Social Development and is focused on the prevention of the negative consequences of alcohol abuse. The association’s mission is to reduce alcohol-related harm through combating the misuse and abuse of alcohol beverages and promoting only their responsible use.
FARR was established as a non-profit organisation (NPO) in 1997. It is a very small organisation with approximately 15 staff members. FARR has 3 focus areas;
FARR is at present the only organisation of its kind in South Africa with the ability to offer the above-mentioned package, which include the ability to diagnose FASD. Since its establishment, over 150 scientific papers have been published in various medical journals. The organisation works closely with various Universities across the world and regularly partners with scientists in a wide range of fields such as engineering, bio-engineering, etc. to develop innovative initiatives and tools to combat FASD in South Africa.
- Awareness and prevention
- Research, diagnosis and management of FASD
- Training (which will now be strengthened with the establishment of the Training Academy in 2008)
FARR has awareness, prevention, research and management projects in the Witzenberg area (Ceres), De Aar and Upington, Ashton and with its head office in Rondebosch, Cape Town. The organisation works closely with the Departments of Health, Social Development, Education, Agriculture and others in the development of appropriate mechanisms to strengthen and support Government efforts in addressing the problem of substance abuse, including alcohol, and the high prevalence of FASD in SA. FARR has a very supportive Board of Directors, consisting of experts in the field of substance abuse and FASD.