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Address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Need For Better Policies To Address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Press Release
8 September 2009

The Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) is calling for better policies to address Fetal Alcohol Disorder Spectrum.

Speaking on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day (held on the ninth day of the ninth month), ALAC Early Intervention Manager Sue Paton said drinking at any time during pregnancy could affect the normal development of the fetus.

“The harms that result from pre-natal exposure to alcohol range from mild intellectual and behavioural issues to profound disabilities,” she said.

Research commissioned by ALAC showed that many women still believed a small amount of alcohol would not hurt the fetus, she said. The research found only 40 percent believed women should abstain altogether from drinking during pregnancy. Half of the women surveyed said one drink or less was safe to be consumed on a typical drinking occasion in pregnancy.

“But in fact there is no known safe level of consumption of alcohol for pregnant women and unfortunately, medical advice on drinking during pregnancy is variable," she said.

Ms Paton said there needed to be a stronger public policy response to FASD in New Zealand. ALAC recommended labelling alcohol containers to caution against drinking during pregnancy and currently had an application for health advisory labels before Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

There needed to be consistent messages from health professionals on the dangers of drinking while pregnant, proactive identification, assessment and help for families at risk of being affected by FASD, and research to more accurately ascertain the prevalence of FASD.

Ms Paton said there was little information about the true prevalence of FASD in New Zealand as there had been no population based prevalence studies.

However, the Ministry of Health estimated there were two to three per thousand live births for FASD and four to five per thousand live births for partial-FASD.

Ms Paton said there was a danger the rate of FASD in New Zealand might increase because the prevalence of potentially hazardous drinking among women of child-bearing age was increasing.

ENDS

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