Thousands of midwives will be trained to advise expectant mothers of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The training scheme, to be run by the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, is being funded by drinks giant Diageo.
It is hoped the project, which will involve 10,000 midwives, will aid more than one million pregnant women over a three-year period.
The involvement of Diageo, producer of brands including Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, is part of the government’s drive to increase private investment in public health initiatives.
Public health minister Anne Milton said: “This will help over a million women over the next three years to make an informed decision about drinking during their pregnancy.”
Government guidance is for pregnant women to avoid drinking alcohol, but if they do, to drink only one to two units, once or twice a week.
It is part of the government’s “Responsibility Deal” which sees big business, charities and the retail sector working together to help people live healthier lives.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said figures from the Infant Feeding Survey 2005 for the UK showed that 34% of mothers gave up drinking when they were pregnant, 61% said they drank less during their pregnancy, and 4% reported no change to their drinking patterns.
A cautionary note was sounded by a spokeswoman for the British Medical Association, the doctors’ professional association.
She said: “If the drinks industry does fund a health campaign, it is essential that independent clinical advice is sought.”