#FeatureFriday – David Brown, CanFASD Board Member

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Me n Willow
David and his dog, Willow

David Brown sits on the CanFASD Board of Directors. He is a recent addition to our team but brings years of experience in the field of substance use and addiction.

David started in this field as an academic working in the sociology department at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. He shifted from an academic focus to a research focus to pursue his interest in health and addictions. During this time, he worked as a lead researcher with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

David’s main research interest has been in the area of screening and brief intervention for risky drinking. His goal is to help primary care providers, like doctors and nurses, find better ways to talk to patients about alcohol consumption.

The screening process is a preliminary stage where primary care providers screen individuals to determine if they are drinking at a “risky level”. Brief interventions come after that, where practitioners create an environment where they can have open and honest conversations with these individuals about their substance use practices.

“[A brief intervention] is basically a way of having a conversation with a patient or an individual to help them rethink their relationship with drinking and to help them set their own goals for drinking.” Brief intervention practices are being implemented in a number of different fields to address many health issues, not only alcohol consumption.

His research has focused on determining whether screening and brief intervention is effective for every population, and on ways to increase the implementation of this practice in areas of primary care.

“We know that the screening and brief intervention process works fairly well. There’s a lot of evidence for that. The trouble is that it’s not widely implemented at all.”

David worked with physicians and health care providers to implement best practices. One of his most high-profile creations was a series of self-help workbooks to give individuals the tools they need to address their alcohol consumption and cannabis use. These workbooks were very well received by health and educational organizations. Publication has since been taken over by the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Addictions.

David is drawn to CanFASD because of the unique nature of the organization, both in the work we do and how we function as an organization. It is uncommon to have an organization tackling such a large geographical area with such a small team. To do so, CanFASD has a network of stakeholders collaborating across different government jurisdictions. David finds that network collaboration to be an extremely important aspect of the research process.

“[The network] puts researchers in touch with the families themselves that are affected by FASD and, coming from a research background, I think that’s really critical. It helps to ground researchers in real world issues rather than simply academic research.”

David is a fairly recent addition to the CanFASD team, starting in the summer of 2019: “I’ve been to two board meetings, so I’m still fairly new and I’m still learning a lot about it!”

His position as a board member is something he’s still getting used to, having spent the majority of his career working at the heart of an organization.

“It’s a bit of a transition to go from being the someone that talks about how to run things and making those kind of decisions versus someone who has to kind of step back a bit and be more of just an advisor… It’s a very different kind of role so I’ve been having to get used to [being] more removed from the centre of things.” 

The CanFASD Board of Directors functions to support the organization to develop priorities and policy direction to help CanFASD move forward. They also help to grow our network by building relationships between CanFASD and other organizations.

“We are the only game in town when it comes to really trying to push FASD research in Canada – and there’s not even many examples around the world of an organization that does that. It’s an important area that affects a lot of people, and yet it doesn’t get the focus and attention that other health issues do.”

The most important thing David wants everyone to understand about FASD is the negative impact stigma can have. “Stigma is a real challenge, and it’s one of the major barriers impacting the prevalence of and response to FASD in Canada. Its existence prevents FASD from being given the research and the clinical response that it really deserves.”

Stigma is a serious issue that can impact the health and well-being of all Canadians in a number of different ways. It can prevent individuals from seeking treatment and support, affect the quality of care provided, and impact an individual’s access to services.

CanFASD is committed to addressing stigma to improve the health and well-being of all Canadians. You can help us on our journey by learning about FASD, using respectful and inclusive language when talking about FASD and substance use, and sharing these lessons with members of your community.



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