Rocking red shoes for the health of our tamariki


A selection of hand-painted “Red Shoe Rocks” 

3 September 2020


This September see if you can spot red shoes painted on rocks around Whanganui.


September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Month and Whanganui District Health Board health promoter Chester Penaflor is painting red shoes on more than 50 rocks to be placed around the city in support of the Red Shoes Rock kaupapa.


Red Shoes Rock is an international movement to raise awareness of FASD, which is caused by alcohol use during pregnancy and Mr Penaflor says September is a time for pregnant women, their whānau and support networks to remember that drinking during pregnancy can cause life-long problems for unborn tamariki.


“Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder lasts a lifetime and there is no cure. Problems can include behavioural and intellectual disabilities and heart defects,” says Mr Penaflor, who encourages the public to wear their favourite red shoes on FASD Day Wednesday 9 September to help start conversations about the topic.


“During September we take the opportunity to kōrero and educate family and friends about the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.”


Mr Penaflor says that because alcohol in the bloodstream passes easily through the placenta, the baby is exposed to the same blood alcohol level as the mother.


“FASD is preventable by being alcohol-free during pregnancy. There is no safe time, type or amount of alcohol to drink when pregnant.”


Mr Penaflor is a member of the Whanganui FASD Network Group, which includes Ministry of Education educational psychologist Johanna Poole.


Ms Poole says no mother sets out to intentionally harm their tamariki and in some cases women may not even know they’re pregnant when drinking.


“It is so important that we support mothers, whānau, and tamariki impacted by FASD, rather than try to direct blame” says Ms. Poole.


“Even those who know they are not supposed to drink during pregnancy may not fully understand the impact alcohol may have on their child.”


Mr Penaflor says that drinking while pregnant also increases the chance of premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth.


“By raising awareness about what causes FASD and the tragic consequences it can have on people’s lives, we hope to encourage mothers not to drink while pregnant or when trying to get pregnant.


“This means more babies are born healthy, with the best chance at reaching their full potential in life,” says Mr Penaflor.


For help with drinking, please talk to your midwife, doctor or nurse or call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797.