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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: the economic cost revealed

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: the economic cost revealed

Alcohol Healthwatch media release, 19 August 2016

Alcohol Healthwatch says a new report revealing the hidden costs of FASD shows more needs doing to reduce alcohol consumption.

Dr Brian Easton and colleagues have undertaken the first study ever to ascertain some of the economic implications of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in New Zealand, the harm that alcohol can cause during the course of prenatal development.

Their paper, 'Productivity Losses Associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in New Zealand', published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, is timely with the Government just releasing the first ever strategic plan to address FASD. The 'Taking Action on FASD: An Action Plan 2013-2016', launched earlier this week, points out the damage alcohol can cause to unborn babies and the initial steps the Government can take to begin to reduce the risks and harm.

The Government estimates that FASD may be costing New Zealand around $800 million annually if one percent of the population is born affected. At this rate of prevalence, Easton and colleagues' research reveals that FASD would result in losses to the New Zealand market production of between $49 million and $200 million each year.

Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says while the Government has initially committed around $12 million over the next three years to implement the FASD Action Plan, this study shows that this pales in significance when the costs of FASD are considered.

"This is only one area of economic burden of this preventable disorder. Those individuals and their families affected by FASD understand its real cost, much of which cannot be counted or measured."

Williams says she commends Dr Easton and his colleagues for shedding light on such an enormous and hidden burden that has been ignored for far too long.

"If we are serious about reducing the overall burden of alcohol on society and in individual lives then we need a greater focus on evidence-based policy and greater investment. The FASD plan is a step in the right direction but women's consumption of alcohol is influenced by the wider environment awash with cheap, easily accessible alcohol and aggressive marketing," she says.


Productivity Losses Associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in New Zealand is an open access publication on theNew Zealand Medical Journal website

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