Australia plays ‘catch-up’ with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Elizabeth Jane Elliott

Abstract


Elliott, E. (2014). Australia plays ‘catch-up’ with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 3(1), 121-125. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v3i1.177

Australians are amongst the highest consumers of alcohol worldwide, and "risky" drinking is increasing in young women. Contrary to the advice in national guidelines, drinking in pregnancy is common. Many women don’t understand the potential for harm to the unborn child and 20% have a "tolerant" attitude to drinking during pregnancy. As attitude, rather than knowledge, predicts risk of drinking in a future pregnancy, this presents a challenge for public health campaigns. Alcohol is teratogenic, crosses the placenta, and contributes to a range of physical, developmental, learning and behavioural problems, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). As nearly half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned, inadvertent exposure to alcohol is common. Good-quality prevalence data on FASD are lacking in Australia, although alcohol use at "risky" levels is well documented in some disadvantaged communities. In the last decade, clinicians, researchers, governments and non-governmental organizations have shown renewed interest in addressing alcohol use in pregnancy and FASD. This has included a parliamentary inquiry into FASD, provision of targeted funding for FASD, and development of educational materials for health professionals and the general public. Key challenges for the future are to prevent FASD and to offer timely diagnosis and help to children and families living with FASD. The implementation of evidence-based interventions known to decrease access to, and excessive use of, alcohol in our society will aid in the prevention of FASD. The development of national diagnostic tools for screening and diagnosis, and the training of health professionals in the management of FASD, are urgently needed.


Keywords


Fetal alcohol syndrome; alcohol pregnancy

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v3i1.177

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