Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a common and largely preventable neurodevelopment disorder. One of the major barriers to FASD prevention is lack of awareness and research regarding the issue.
A recent gold-standard active case ascertainment study by the University of Salford found the prevalence of FASD in the UK is between 1.8% to 3.6%. The researchers went into three schools from different socio-economic backgrounds in Greater Manchester and tested children for FASD. None of the children they diagnosed had previously been diagnosed.
Based on the data from the Salford study, the National Organization for FASD estimated that up to a half million young people under 20 in England and Wales are fast reaching adulthood with no diagnosis or awareness of having FASD and no proper support.
Overall, about 1.2 to 2.4 million people in the UK could be having FASD.
It is now undeniable that FASD is prevalent and massively undiagnosed,” said Sandra Butcher, Chief Executive of The National Organisation for FASD, as per their press release.
What these numbers don’t show is the vast impact on society from allowing this situation to continue without prioritisation from health and social care. A recent DHSC needs assessment says the financial impact can be in the billions.”
Sandra Butcher, Chief Executive, The National Organisation for FASD
Recently several groundbreaking publications have exposed the high prevalence and harm caused due to FASD in the UK. These include, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) FASD Needs Assessment for England, the Public Health England report on alcohol harm in pregnancy and the upcoming NICE Quality Standard on FASD.
The National Organization on FASD calls for:
- A UK-wide active case ascertainment FASD prevalence study so that people living with this largely hidden health condition can be diagnosed and offered appropriate management plans which research showing that help can change life trajectories. This will also help with planning for local needs.
- Making training for FASD mandatory across health, social care, education, justice and associated sectors.
The UK needs to further strengthen alcohol prevention action, increase awareness and improve policy solutions to reduce the heavy FASD burden faced by communities.
Alcohol labelling has the potential to increase community awareness regarding alcohol harms, including prenatal alcohol exposure to the fetus.
Unfortunately, in the UK the alcohol industry self-regulates alcohol labelling and has failed to include correct information on labeling as shown in a research by Alcohol Change UK and Alcohol Health Alliance.
Their research found that current alcohol labelling in UK differs across the industry. Alcohol companies and brands choose to include and omit elements of labeling as they please. Some labels even provide inaccurate health information. Government mandated, evidence-based labelling can greatly enhance people’s awareness about the harms of alcohol use during pregnancy.