Article Summary #12: Technology-Based Interventions Among Women of Childbearing Age

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This Article Summary is part of our CanFASD Connect Top Articles Summary Series. Over the next several months, we will be bringing you summaries of all the recent research papers from our list of the Top FASD Articles of 2019. This is an overview of a research article called The efficacy of technology-based interventions for alcohol and illicit drug use among women of childbearing age: a systematic review and meta-analysis.


Women are most likely to use alcohol and illicit drugs during childbearing age. Among women aged 18-44 in the U.S., 59% of nonpregnant women and 11% of pregnant women have used alcohol in the last month and 14% of nonpregnant women and 8% of pregnant women had used illicit drugs. Alcohol and illicit drug use in women of childbearing age increase the risk of unplanned pregnancy, fertility impairment, and substance-exposed pregnancies.

Many behavioural interventions have been developed aimed at reducing alcohol and illicit drug use among women of childbearing age. However, these traditional interventions are not always effective. Technology-based interventions (TBIs) have many advantages over traditional interventions. They are able to reach a greater number of patients and they can help overcome barriers such as geographic location, cost, and time constraints.

There is growing evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of TBIs in changing health behaviours, but it is unclear whether TBIs are useful in preventing or reducing substance use. The authors of this current study conducted a systematic review of research evidence from randomized controlled trials to understand the effect of TBIs in reducing alcohol or illicit drug use among women of childbearing age.

Main Findings:
  • The researchers found a total of 15 studies that fit the inclusion criteria of this systematic review. 67% measured alcohol use outcomes only, 20% measured drug outcomes only, and 13% measured outcomes from combined drug and alcohol use.
  • 58% of studies looked at interventions delivered by tablet PCs, 33% looked at web-based interventions, and 14% looked at interventions delivered via text message
  • 60% of studies focused on reducing substance use, while 40% focused on preventing substance use.
  • TBIs were effective at preventing and reducing substance use among women of childbearing age relative to control conditions, however, the positive effects of TBIs in reducing/preventing substance use may not last long term
  • Preliminary data suggests that the efficiency of TBIs does not vary based on participant age, race/ethnicity, type of technology used, or the presence of a virtual assistant. However, these results may be a function of the limited studies available.
  • The majority of TBIs included in this review were brief interventions that usually included 1-2 sessions of motivational interviewing or involved sending periodic educational information via text message.
  • Practitioners should consider the use of TBIs to reduce alcohol use among women of childbearing age as they are accessible, time-efficient, cost-effective, and are easy to integrate into a variety of health care settings.
  • Future research is needed to explore the long-term applicability and efficacy of TBIs; the impact that external factors such as ethnicity and age have on results; and the efficacy on reducing the use of specific substances (i.e. illicit drug use), as there are limited high-quality studies that look to answer these questions.


Take-home message:
Technological based interventions (TBIs) may offer a cost-effective strategy to reducing alcohol and illicit drug use among women of childbearing age because of its potential to reach a large number of women and improve accessibility to care.

Authors: Audrey Hang Hai, Kyndal Hammock, and Mary M. Velasquez

Journal: Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research

Date: September 262019

Read the full article (not available open access)

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