Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
The use of alcohol during pregnancy has been shown to affect a developing fetus, causing a range of permanent neurological disabilities and behaviours disorders known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The leading form of preventable birth defects and developmental delays in North America, FASD is a complex, life-long disability and a public health and social issue affecting individuals, communities, families and society as a whole. Without proper supports and interventions, individuals who suffer from FASD are at greater risk of disrupted school experiences, recurring employment problems, encounters with the criminal justice system and suicide attempts. FASD not only affects an individual's quality of life but also has significant repercussions for their families, caregivers and communities. Some individuals with FASD may require substantial community and family support to live independently.
Preventing FASD requires concerted action at all levels to address the underlying risk factors. Current thinking suggests that this might best be achieved by:
- addressing the root causes of alcohol use in pregnancy;
- improving awareness of the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy;
- enabling women to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their family;
- providing women-centered and culturally appropriate services;
- building an integrated system of supports and resources characterized by leadership; direction; partnership and collaboration to prevent FASD and to meet the needs of people living with FASD and their families; and
- enabling individuals with FASD, their families and communities to improve their lives using screening tools and interventions that are both gender and culture appropriate.
The Public Health Agency of Canada published, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): A Framework for Action in 2003.
Other steps to address this priority include a March, 2005 thematic workshop National Thematic Workshop on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) hosted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the Public Health Agency of Canada to:
identify and prioritize issues of national significance in FASD as they relate to the development of the alcohol portion of the National Framework for Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances;
- identify areas for linking the National Framework on FASD with the National Framework fro Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances.
More information can be found in the FASD Foundational Activities.