June 19, 2009
For immediate release
PEI Hosting First Meeting of Atlantic Intergovernmental Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Partnership
FASD describes a range of alcohol-related disorders associated with the use of alcohol during pregnancy. These harms to the child can include brain damage, vision and hearing problems, slow growth and birth defects such as bones that are not properly formed or heart problems.
A report issued in December 2008 concluded that FASD is an emerging issue in Atlantic Canada and that awareness of the emotional and financial burden experienced by families affected by FASD is relatively low. The newly formed Atlantic Intergovernmental Partnership provides a forum through which the Atlantic provinces can take steps to reduce the occurrence of FASD, while promoting the education, awareness and support for this issue within the region.
“FASD awareness programs are very important in our efforts to curb incidence rates on Prince Edward Island. Islanders are not well informed of the dangers associated with consumption of alcohol during pregnancy,” said Dr. Lamont Sweet, Deputy Chief Health Officer and member of the Atlantic Partnership committee. “Being a part of this partnership provides us the opportunity to share resources and strategies, enhancing our abilities to bring wide-spread awareness of this serious issue to Islanders and Atlantic Canadians.”
In Canada, prenatal exposure to alcohol is one of the top three reasons for developmental delays in children. It is estimated that nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Canada are affected by some form of FASD – approximately 13 children in Prince Edward Island are diagnosed with some form of the disorder each year.
Dr. Kathryn Bigsby, Head of Pediatrics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, notes that there is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed at any stage of pregnancy; therefore refraining from the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy and when planning pregnancy is the safest option to ensure prevention of FASD. “Stopping alcohol consumption as soon as possible and looking after your health are the best ways to reduce the risk of harm to you and your baby,” said Dr. Bigsby.
In December 2008 the report, “Forward, Together: Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Atlantic Canada,” was released. The two-phased report is an effort to document FASD in the region; identifying gaps, priorities, and opportunities related to FASD; and provide recommendations for consideration for future direction in Atlantic Canada. The report concludes FASD is an emerging issue in Atlantic Canada.
The mandate of the Atlantic Intergovernmental FASD Partnership is:
• To develop partnerships which foster collaboration and communication between the provincial and federal government in the Atlantic region;
• To identify gaps, challenges and opportunities in order to set priorities for FASD work in Atlantic Canada;
• To pool resources to provide public education on FASD in the Atlantic region; and
• To advocate for, encourage and promote Atlantic FASD research.