Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause serious damage to the developing baby; more than cocaine, heroin and marijuana combined. Prenatal alcohol exposure is the nation’s leading cause of preventable birth defects. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is the range of neurological disorders associated with prenatal alcohol exposure, and includes physical birth defects and difficulties with learning and behavior. There is no cure, only prevention and supportive services children affect by the condition and their families.
Imagine a world where everyone knows the dangers of drinking during pregnancy – together, we can do this!
Reduce the number of children born in the U.S. with FASD by 80% by the year 2025.
In order to accomplish this goal, the following will be required:
- Community advocacy
- Educational seminars, on-demand webinars and workshops
- School education
- Research & clinical practice
- Multicenter research sites
- Integrated programming
- Clinical and Support Services for affected children and families
Community advocacy is critical in raising the awareness that FASD is of epidemic proportions and is 100% preventable. Pregnant women preparing for pregnancy and those at risk for unplanned pregnancy need to fully understand the damage that alcohol use can cause a developing baby. Shame and judgement of mothers who have children with an FASD needs to be eliminated. Children must get the support they need and researchers need to be able to work with the families and affected children to develop effective prevention tools.
Educational workshops, on-demand webinars and seminars to train health and social service professionals and the general public on FASD are essential to support our community. Trainings for medical providers, educators, social workers, criminal justice workers, caregivers and others in the health and human services sector are needed to allow for a better understanding of the physical, behavioral and cognitive challenges faced by people with an FASD and to help eliminate alcohol exposure during pregnancy.
Schools need to educate students about an increasing number of public health issues for which they are at risk. The risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy needs to be taught in an understandable, thorough and effective way in the context of all levels of education and belief systems. We need to start early, during reproductive health classes at developmentally appropriate levels.
Multisite research centers can further the reach and breadth of prevention, intervention and treatments for children diagnosed with FASD. In the United States there are three research centers with a focus on this condition: UC San Diego, the University of Washington, and Emory University. By supporting multisite research centers, we can share best practices in prevention, intervention, and treatment of FASD.
Research centers need to become integrated with clinical practice and support services. Our Director, Dr. Ken Jones leads research at UC San Diego and is the leading pediatrician at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego in the field of preventable birth defects. Dr. Jones was one of two physicians who first described the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the U.S. in 1973 and since that time has been a health provider, researcher and an advocate for families affected by FASD. As his integrative program, the Institute for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Discovery illustrates, clinical practice as well as research benefits families when each informs the other.
Clinical and support services for affected children and families are critical for those impacted. Children and families need a great deal of support. It is incredibly difficult for children to get the necessary medical and developmental services they need, in part, because of the lack of training that medical professional receive about FASD. We need to develop better education programs for healthcare providers and develop a universal coding system to classify FASD.