We all want a brighter future for our children. It is everyone’s hope that children grow up to reach their full potential and thrive as adults.
But children who are diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) face many obstacles making it harder for them to thrive.
FASD is a neurodevelopment disorder occurring due to prenatal exposure of alcohol. The condition leads to a variety of lifelong physical, behavioral, learning and intellectual problems. In New Zealand, an estimated 1800 and 3000 babies are born with FASD each year.
The disorder while not curable is preventable. Interventions to prevent prenatal alcohol exposure such as alcohol taxation, banning advertising, reducing alcohol availability, raising awareness, and pregnancy warning labelling are effective in helping prevent FASD.
Meanwhile for children born with FASD, early diagnosis and intervention can change their lives, reduce the harm their experiennce and help them thrive in society.
FASD is a human rights issue
Previously Movendi International covered a NZ Human Rights Commission report. The report exposed that thousands of New Zealanders with FASD have been denied support and faced human rights violations. According to that report, many people with the disorder can’t get the help they need to thrive. In parts of New Zealand it is still difficult to get diagnosed, and support is patchy. The commission warned that the lack of support can have serious consequences for people with FASD, including increased risk of suicide and a trajectory towards the criminal justice system.
As reported by Stuff, Ben* is a young adult with FASD and an intellectual disability. His symptoms turned severe during puberty making him violent to his carer. Without the proper support he ended up in youth prison at age 17. Since he’s out of prison Ben* still does not have proper support to lead a fulfilling life.
Stories of teens like Ben* are a testament to the harm caused to people with FASD due to lack of proper support. (*name changed to hide identity)
Carers and those working with people who have FASD call for more support so that people with FASD can enjoy better health and well-being. There’s a massive need for supported housing for people with FASD.
The community fears that easy and wide alcohol availability perpetuates the cycle of FASD.
It’s [alcohol is] cheap, advertised everywhere and we are really concerned about the impact on our hapū māmā [pregnant mothers], and on homelessness,” said Zoe Hawke who works with young parents from E Tipu e Rea Whānau Services, as per Stuff.
Zoe Hawke, E Tipu e Rea Whānau Services
These fears are warranted considering alcohol industry strategies to undermine alcohol prevention during pregnancy and to obstruct policies that can prevent FASD such as raising alcohol taxes, banning alcohol ads, reducing alcohol availability, and pregnancy warning labeling.
One study found that alcohol industry–funded websites omit and misrepresent the evidence on key risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
This may “nudge” women toward continuing to consume alcohol during pregnancy. Clearly, alcohol industry–funded bodies increase risk to pregnant women by disseminating misinformation.
The mandatory pregnancy warning labeling adopted by the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in July last year faced aggressive opposition from the alcohol industry. Even after the label was adopted Big Alcohol groups continued to oppose it.