‘Researcher links workshop gets underway in Uruguay! – Smoking/Alcohol use in Pregnancy’

Following a successful grant application, a group of UKCTAS researchers, have in collaboration with colleagues in Uruguay’s University of the Republic organised a workshop to explore how research into smoking and alcohol use in pregnancy can be used to develop and implement effective policies to curb the use of these substances, which remain a problem in many parts of the world, including the UK and Uruguay.

The workshop took place in the Hygiene Institute (part of the University’s medical faculty) in Montevideo on 22-25 February 2016.

Day 1 of the workshop was opened by Professor Alicia Aleman, the Uruguayan coordinator, with short talks from the Dean of the Medical School and representatives from the British Council and British Embassy, both having contributed funding to the event. Each emphasised the public health importance of tobacco and alcohol use in pregnancy, and in order to strengthen health policies, it was important to have international collaborations, and it was the aim of this workshop to create and strengthen such links between the UK and Uruguay.


Each of those present were asked to introduce themselves, demonstrating a variety of backgrounds and experience to enrich the workshop,  with expertise split fairly evenly between tobacco and alcohol.

Professor Linda Bauld, the UK coordinator, then explained the aims and objectives of the workshop. Although there has been success at the population level, progress has been slow in the area of pregnancy and this is especially a problem in poorer communities in both countries. This was also an opportunity to utilise the wider UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies (www.ukctas.net), a strategic network of tobacco and alcohol researchers, which opens further collaboration opportunities in the UK.

The main objective of the workshop is to apply implementation science frameworks and theories to participants’ area of interest to encourage:

– Collaborations
– Joint publications
– Commentaries
– Policy work

It is intended this will lead to:

1) increased knowledge and awareness among the participants.

2) facilitate the development of future proposals.

3) the formation of a UK/Uruguay research network.

A light hearted quiz on tobacco and alcohol in pregnancy followed, which in itself was informative, especially for those with little experience of one of these topics.

One of the objectives of the workshop is to identify frameworks and theories than could assist with successful implementation of interventions. This is sometimes known as ‘implementation science’.  In his talk, Professor Fernando Althabe  from the Institute of Clinical Effectiveness and Public Health in Buenos Aires gave an introduction to implementation science in the context of maternal health.

He began by briefly describing the situation in Latin America in relation to pregnancy and birth facilities; with 75% living in urban areas, 84% of pregnant women have more than 4 antenatal visits from midwives. Unlike the UK where midwives mostly attend the deliveries, in Uruguay a physician is normally present. 90% of deliveries are within public health facilities and the caesarean section rate is around 35%, which is higher than in the UK.

Fernando then raised the following questions:
– How do we get policymakers to put recommendations into practice?
– What are the best ways of utilising an effective intervention?,

He added that it was important to study methods to promote the uptake of research findings.

He also provided a useful summary of the various terms used to describe implementation research. The terminology can vary in different parts of the world – including quality improvement research, knowledge translation and dissemination research but all these terms relate to a similar approach. Particular ‘areas’ of research often have a strong focus on implementation including health services and health systems research. He concluded by reflecting on why focusing on implementation is so important to reducing smoking and harmful use of alcohol as we often have the evidence but simply don’t use it or learn how to apply (or not apply) it in health and care practice.

The remainder of day 1 focused on an overview of tobacco and alcohol use internationally and then in more detail on figures from the UK and Uruguay presented by Linda Bauld, Alicia Aleman and Sally Marlow.

Participants attending from the UK and Uruguay then had an opportunity to present their own research, with day 1’s break out sessions focusing on the causes and consequences of tobacco and alcohol use in pregnancy. The work presented varied from lab-based studies on biomarkers to surveys and cohort studies and qualitative research. A lively discussion followed each session on similarities and differences between the UK and Uruguay as well as reflections on evidence from other countries.

More to follow as the week goes on!

Follow the workshops progress on twitter using #ukctasMVD


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