Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is substantially more prevalent for people in five vulnerable groups including children in care, Indigenous populations and people in prison, according to a global study by Canadian researchers.
The lead author of the paper says the fluctuating prevalence rates in the study are further evidence that the idea women can safely have a glass of wine during dinner while pregnant is a myth.
The study, with lead author Svetlana Popova, who is a senior scientist in the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, is being published in the medical journal Addiction.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, also known as FASD, is a disabling condition in children caused by the mother’s consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
“When a mother-to-be consumes alcohol, it goes directly to the fetus through her bloodstream. Alcohol is poisonous to the developing fetus and can disrupt its normal development. FASD is a serious and lifelong condition,” Popova said in an interview.
“Alcohol is especially dangerous for the developing brain cells; that’s why people with FASD have difficulties with learning, attention, memory, reasoning, problem solving, language and communication.
While FASD can affect people from all racial, ethnic and sociological backgrounds, the data from 69 previously published studies of people in 17 countries — including Canada, the United States, South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia — shows prevalence rates are particularly devastating for certain subpopulation groups.
The study identified five high-prevalence groups: children in care; people in correctional service custody; people in special education services; people using specialized services for developmental disabilities or psychiatric care; and Indigenous populations.
The study was designed to help improve prevalence estimates and predictions with an eye to better public policy, and to allow for better planning and budgeting of health care, community and social services response.
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