In honour of International FASD Day 2018, CanFASD Executive Director, Audrey McFarlane, has written the following editorial on where we are today in the field of FASD, and a call to action on where we need to go. To see Audrey’s recent interview in our FASD Day series, click here.
Today, on September 9th, Canada will recognize International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day for the 19th consecutive year. This day presents the opportunity to reflect on research and work done in the FASD field, and to consider ways we can further support the individuals and families impacted by FASD.
Awareness of FASD is growing internationally and countries are looking for effective ways to prevent, diagnose, intervene and support those with FASD. The International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research has seen increased participation from across the globe, demonstrating a multinational appetite for collaboration and research into this field. In previous years, 40 countries attended and presented their projects and research on FASD, with Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand demonstrating greater levels of support for those impacted by FASD.
Canada is leading the way in innovative and applied research in FASD. In fact, Canada has the only National FASD Database in the world, led by the Canada FASD Research Network (CanFASD). Clinics are providing anonymized information about each person who receives a diagnosis. This information is critical to understand the needs of individuals with FASD – what they are struggling with, what services are available and what services are needed – and to measure improvements in their support.
Still, unlike Australia and other FASD-conscious countries, Canada does not have a national FASD strategy. While many provinces and territories have identified FASD as a priority, without a national strategy, Canada will struggle to provide a cohesive approach to the treatment and prevention of FASD.
FASD impacts a great number of Canadians. Approximately four per cent of Canadians have FASD – which is more than autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, and spina bifida combined. There are more Canadians with FASD than individuals living in Saskatchewan, and the burden of inconsistent services and treatment across provinces and territories is felt by these vulnerable individuals and their loved ones.
Initiatives like International FASD Awareness Day are important because they give us the opportunity to come together as a nation to celebrate the strides we’ve made in the field of FASD, to show support to individuals living with FASD and to raise awareness of the harms of alcohol during pregnancy.
So, join us and all those celebrating a loved one with FASD in recognizing this special day. Raise your voice to the call for more capacity to serve these individuals and their families; raise your hand to help families and service providers in understanding the issues; and raise your hearts in understanding and having empathy for the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child with FASD.
For more information, find us at CanFASD.ca.