International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day is marked annually on September 9 to raise awareness about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and about the challenges that individuals with FASD and their families face.
FASD is a brain injury that can occur when an unborn baby is exposed to alcohol in the womb and the result is a lifelong disorder with effects that include physical, mental and behavioural disabilities. FASD is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disabilities among Canadians.
Children and adults living with FASD, often encounter a great deal of stigma and judgement. This stigma can keep women from openly discussing alcohol consumption with their health care providers, preventing them from accessing the programs, services, and supports they need.
Many factors can contribute to FASD, and there is no single solution to preventing it. That is why the Government of Canada is partnering with provincial and territorial governments, communities, Indigenous organizations and experts to support a variety of education and prevention initiatives.
For example, we are funding five projects that focus on developing knowledge and skills among health professionals on how to screen, counsel and discuss alcohol use with girls and women. The goal of these projects is to help prevent alcohol use during pregnancy and to promote behaviours that set the conditions for lifelong health. We are also supporting the Kids’ Brain Health Network to provide health care professionals, policy makers, caregivers and families with tools and information to promote earlier diagnosis, better treatment and optimal outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including FASD.
In order to increase awareness of FASD among First Nations and Inuit communities, as well as educate front-line workers, our government is also developing culturally appropriate prevention and intervention programs that educate and raise awareness about the impacts of FASD. We are also exploring opportunities to advance the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action #33 and #34 related to FASD by working in collaboration with Indigenous people to implement preventive programs that can be delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.
By working together, we can encourage healthy pregnancies and support those living with FASD. This month, learn more about FASD prevention and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #FASD.
Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health