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Foetal Alcohol Syndrome should be notifiable

11 August, 2004

Turner: Foetal Alcohol Syndrome should be notifiable

Foetal alcohol syndrome needs to battled with far more than just warning labels on alcohol bottles, United Future health spokeswoman Judy Turner said today in supporting a call for it to be recognised as a notifiable disability.

"As regards labelling, no single strategy is going to turn New Zealand's statistics around if we are to properly tackle this silent tragedy," Mrs Turner said of the condition said to severely afflict up to three in every 1000 newborns and an estimated one in 100 babies to some degree of damage.

With that level of prevalence, and an estimated lifetime cost of $2 million to the taxpayer for the maintenance and assistance required by each sufferer, it is time the condition was properly recognised," she said.

"As it stands, it is poorly diagnosed because of a lack of knowledge about it, and often manifests itself in other social and health ills, therefore never being acknowledged as the root cause of a person's problems.

"We need to look at better training for doctors, midwives, paediatricians, Plunket nurses and early childhood teachers in detecting it, because the earlier the intervention the better the prospects for that child," Mrs Turner, a member of the Health Select Committee, said.

She said it was time society more fully appreciated just how dangerous drinking was for pregnant women and their babies.

A recent Seattle study of those with foetal alcohol syndrome showed that:

* 94 percent had mental health problems * 80 percent were dependent for their daily needs * 80 percent had employment problems * 60 percent were diagnosed with ADD * 60 percent were expelled or had dropped out of school * 60 percent had been in trouble with the law * 50 percent had a history of inappropriate sexual behaviour.


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