The role of communication in addressing sociocultural factors that influence pregnant women to drink alcohol in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Akpan, Udoh James.
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The World Health Organisation report (WHO, 2016) states that one in 10 women consumes alcohol during pregnancy globally, and 20% of these women binge drink. Drinking while pregnant harms the foetus with the possible consequence being Fetal Alcoholic Spectrum Disorder (FASD). South Africa has the highest reported FASD prevalence rates in the world. The South African Department of Health (DoH) recognises this as a severe public health issue affecting pregnant women. Studies show that the factors that motivate maternal drinking are more socio-cultural than medical and psychological. There have been global efforts to address this public health issue with pregnant women but the phenomenon still persists. This study addresses the issue by exploring the localised responses of pregnant women who drink while pregnant in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, through a qualitative investigation of the sociocultural factors that encourage alcohol consumption amongst this population. The study employed Participatory Health Communication as the theoretical framework and mobilised the Social Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) as the process to identify and analyse the socio-cultural issues in Durban. This theoretical framework and process was supported by the Culture-Centred Approach (Dutta, 2008) to engage with the influence of culture and structure to understand the socio-cultural factors that contribute to their health choices and possible avenues for agency to address this. Communication plays a central role in this agency. The study adopted the Applied Thematic Analysis (Guest, McQueen and Namey, 2012) to interpret the data gathered from interviews with the participants at King Edward VIII Hospital. The study found that social and environmental factors are family, friends and access to shebeens and taverns in the neighbourhood which support a drinking culture that encourages social tolerance of alcohol consumption and the reluctance to stop drinking. The study identified the need for ongoing communication through preferred communication channels that are readily available for women to request support. The study found the importance to extend beyond knowledge acquisition, but to mobilise communication as a culturally nuanced tool to facilitate psycho-social support during times of alcohol consumption when pregnant.