IOGT-NTO: Advocacy for the Creation of National Center on FASD
IOGT-NTO has launched a petition to bolster advocacy efforts for the creation of a National Center on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The move comes after IOGT-NTO and partners released a fresh report earlier in 2020 about the harm alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy by both parents does to the unborn child.
IOGT-NTO is the largest organization promoting an alcohol-free way of life in Sweden and one of the biggest member organizations of Movendi International.
Of all the lifestyle choices we make in connection with a pregnancy, there is nothing more important to the child’s future health and development than the choices we make about alcohol,” writes Irma Kilim, Head of Drug Policy at IOGT-NTO in her editorial.
FASD is the collective name for all types of injuries that occur to a fetus due to exposure to alcohol. One of these injuries is the medical diagnosis of FAS and includes not only various degrees of damage to the central nervous system but also typically altered appearance and problems in the central nervous system.
The concept of FASD has been established since 2004, but FAS became a diagnosis as early as 1978. Despite this knowledge about risks to the fetus from alcohol consumption information and awareness raising before and during pregnancy is limited in healthcare provision in Sweden. Knowledge is also deficient in social services as well as preschool and elementary school. The consequences are that children with FAS are not identified, that they receive another diagnosis that leads to incorrect rehabilitation and that parents of affected children receive inadequate or even incorrect information.
In Sweden, the cost of FAS has been estimated at €1.4 billion per year, calculated that 0.2% of all children in Sweden are born with FAS. Researchers warn figures are an underestimation.
According to a report from the Nordic Welfare Center, there is insufficient research and knowledge about how many children in the Nordic region are affected each year. Furthermore, a landmark study by Popova et al. showed in 2017 that the proportion of women in the Nordic countries who consumed alcohol during pregnancy varies between 8.9% and 22.6%. However, the figures are not reliable as the data are based on small, older studies that are not necessarily representative of the situation in these countries today.
A recently released IOGT-NTO report on alcohol, pregnancy and infant health found:
- Fathers’ alcohol consumption before pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus and possibly to future generations as alcohol changes the sperm’s genetic mass.
- The pregnant person’s likelihood of consuming alcohol during pregnancy increases if the partner consumes alcohol, especially if the partner is at risk or has a heavy alcohol consumption. Despite this, very few partners change their alcohol use during pregnancy.
- Men’s heavy episodic alcohol use is linked to partner violence during a pregnancy.
The IOGT-NTO movement and the other expert organizations behind the recent report are now calling and campaigning for a National Competence Center on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) to achieve the following much needed action towards FASD prevention:
- Collect data on alcohol consumption before, during and after pregnancy.
- Collect data on the presence of FASD.
- Develop methods for assessing and rehabilitating FASD.
- Conduct training for relevant personnel.
FASD is a societal problem and an issue that requires collective action.
Nevertheless, there is no continuous epidemiological follow-up of exposure to alcohol before, during and after pregnancy, and neither of the prevalence of FAS and FASD,” writes Irma Kilim.
Besides following-up exposure and related problems, the national competence center could function as a resource center for children who have been at risk and/ or need rehabilitation. The center could provide trainings for healthcare professionals, social workers and teachers in how to identify, diagnose and rehabilitate children and adults with FASD.
IOGT-NTO: “REDUCE BIRTH DEFECTS BY ALCOHOL BY OPENING A NATIONAL COMPETENCE CENTER!” [Translated from Swedish]
IOGT-NTO: “CHRONICLE: REDUCE THE BIRTH DEFECTS OF ALCOHOL BY OPENING A NATIONAL COMPETENCE CENTER!” [Translated from Swedish]
Nordic Welfare: “Debate: Lifelong consequences for children exposed to alcohol in the fetal stage” [Translated from Swedish]