The federal government has funded a new web resource developed by the University of Sydney to assist the prevention and response to Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Known as the National FASD Hub, the web resource is a comprehensive one-stop shop loaded with materials, resources, directories and training and support networks to assist parents, carers, health professionals, researchers and policy makers.

The website’s launch comes at a time when news and research reports reveal between 60% and 80% of pregnant women in Australia say they drink at some point during their pregnancy.

Recent news reports also note that doctors vary in their attitudes, with some advising against a sip and others saying that one glass once a week or on a special occasion won’t hurt

“We have a very tolerant attitude to alcohol use in Australia, including at risky levels, and that includes in pregnant women,” says Dr Elizabeth Elliott AM, a professor in paediatrics and child health at the University of Sydney who was funded to develop the National FASD Hub.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a diagnostic term for severe neurodevelopmental impairments resulting from brain damage caused by alcohol exposure before birth.

“The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are life-long and may not be seen at birth. Problems include brain damage leading to delayed development, social, behavioural and learning problems,” says Professor Elliott.

“These can lead to secondary outcomes such as poor school performance, unemployment, substance abuse, mental health problems and early engagement with the justice system.”

“Australian health professionals have been slow to diagnose FASD. Often, they don’t ask about alcohol use in pregnancy and don’t know how to diagnose FASD, or where to refer patients.

“Children with FASD have a range of problems with learning, development and behaviour and do best with early diagnosis and treatment.

“Up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned so exposure to alcohol is often inadvertent,” said Professor Elliott.

(Source: The University of Sydney)