Ontario “…the government is committed to developing the province’s first FASD strategy and will be announcing the new measures by early next year…”
News – Local news
Public largely ignorant of damage alcohol can cause unborn babies, says report
Chris Cobb, Ottawa Citizen
[Photo] Poster from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Coalition of Ottawa.
The public needs educating about the effects of alcohol on unborn children in an effort to stem the growing number of babies born with brain damage, says a new, groundbreaking provincial report.
The report into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the result of 25 roundtable meetings across the province, organized by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services and led by Durham MPP Granville Anderson.
Anderson, parliamentary assistant to Minister Tracy MacCharles, re-iterates throughout the report that a massive public education campaign is necessary.
“Many women and men are unaware of the risks of alcohol use before, during and after pregnancy,” said Anderson. “Children and youth affected by FASD are more likely to have mental health issues, substance abuse problems, and social and behavioural problems.”
A spokesman for MacCharles told the Citizen on Tuesday that the government is committed to developing the province’s first FASD strategy and will be announcing the new measures by early next year.About one in 100 Canadians is affected by FASD — 130,00 Ontarians. Researchers say the number is an underestimate because of widespread ignorance about the condition among physicians, who misdiagnose the disorder, and biological mothers who fear the stigma that might result from admitting they drank alcohol during their pregnancies.
Most FASD sufferers have attention deficit disorder, which researchers say is often diagnosed and medicated as a single, non alcohol-related disorder.
Those with FASD-related attention deficit often don’t respond well to medication such as Ritalin.
According to the report, alcohol consumed by pregnant women is among the leading causes of cognitive and developmental disability in Canadian children.
One myth that experts say needs discrediting is that FASD only damages the brains of babies born to alcoholic mothers.
Timing is often more important that quantity, they say, so even casual drinkers can put their babies at risk.
FASD cost Canada at least $1.8 billion in 2013 — the latest figure available and, coincidentally, the same amount as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s profit during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
LCBO, which intermittently has had short-lived FASD education efforts — including the 2014 ‘Baby Bump’ campaign and in-store fundraisers — hands all its profit over to the government. The LCBO warrants only passing mention in the report despite its near monopoly as the province’s alcohol seller.
MacCharles’ spokesman said the ministry is now “exploring potential opportunities for collaborative work” with the liquor board.
“Without exception,” writes Anderson in his report, “there is a great demand for an integrated Ontario FASD strategy. (Families) have waited a long time for action … we need to start talking about FASD and how we can decrease its prevalence in Ontario.”
Among Anderson’s recommendations are:
- A policy aimed at eliminating stigma surrounding FASD.
- Tailor-made services that help victims from childhood through senior years.
- Increased screening to improve and increase early diagnosis.
- A joint strategy that involves health, justice, education and social services sectors.
FASD advocates say doctors and teachers need help in understanding FASD and schools need to offer special programs to FASD children who are often disruptive and unruly.