27 February 2015

Efforts to overcome fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Researchers at Telethon Kids Institute are working with Aboriginal community leaders in the Fitzroy Valley to eradicate fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

A new report (external site) by Telethon Kids Institute researcher, paediatrician and McCusker Clinical Research Fellow Dr James Fitzpatrick (published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health) revealed one in eight children born in 2002 or 2003 in the Fitzroy Valley have FAS. This is one of the highest rates in the world.

As a result of the findings June Oscar, the CEO of Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women's Resource Centre, and Maureen Carter, CEO of Nindilingari Cultural Health Services, have joined with the Telethon Kids Institute in formulating the Marulu strategy (external site), Australia's most comprehensive Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevention strategy to "Make FASD History."

Dr Fitzpatrick said by partnering with the community on the Marulu Strategy, Telethon Kids Institute and others can help the community achieve their goal to 'Make FASD History in the Fitzroy Valley.'

"While these results are distressing, they are sadly not a surprise and the community has already initiated a comprehensive strategy to prevent alcohol consumption in pregnancy, and to support the children who have already been affected," he said.

Dr Fitzpatrick said that through the Marulu FASD Strategy, the community is driving a response that positions the Fitzroy Valley as a model that could set an example for Aboriginal community-owned and community-driven programs around the country.

"What is important now is that we focus on the urgent action that is required to support community-led prevention and management responses to help the community move forward," he said.

Dr Fitzpatrick also commended the community leaders who had the foresight and resolve in 2009 to invite researchers and clinicians to partner with them to provide the evidence they needed to advocate for people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.