The International Charter On Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

The International Charter on Prevention of FASD has been published in The Lancet Global Health, one of the world’s most influential public-health journals.
The Charter – also known as the “Edmonton Charter” – was endorsed at the First International Conference on Prevention of FASD in September 2013.The Edmonton Charter was drafted by senior staff of the Institute of Health Economics, and reviewed and approved by a committee of global leaders in FASD and alcohol policy chaired by Dr. Kenneth Warren, Acting Director of the U.S National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The Charter summarizes the latest evidence presented at the conference, and calls for urgent global action to address the public health crisis of FASD.


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a serious health and social problem, as well as an educational and legal issue, which affects individuals, families, and societies worldwide. The disorder is caused by alcohol use during pregnancy—no known amount of alcohol is safe for a growing embryo and fetus, which can develop extensive brain damage and physical abnormalities from exposure to alcohol. Although early intervention and supportive care can improve outcomes for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the associated cognitive, behavioural, and physical impairments can have devastating implications for the individual, family, and other caregivers. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a lifelong disorder.

The cause and consequences of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder have been known for 40 years, yet the disorder continues to afflict millions of people worldwide—about one in every 100 live births. In countries where drinking among women of childbearing age is common, the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be substantially higher. This disorder is of overwhelming concern in some populations.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is preventable. However, one major obstacle to prevention is lack of awareness of the disorder’s existence and of risks associated with women drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Opinion based advice and conflicting messages from different studies about presumed safe amounts of maternal alcohol consumption cause confusion and contribute to a failure to perceive the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Findings from basic research have shown clearly that even low to moderate consumption of alcohol can cross the placenta and interfere with the normal development of the embryo and fetus. Heavy or frequent alcohol use increases the risk of giving birth to a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Jonsson E, Salmon A, Warren KR. The international charter on prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Lancet Glob Health 2014 March 1;2(3):e135-e137.

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