Opinion: Where is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the 2019 Federal Budget?

Support to FASD missing in federal budget

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a major public health issue in Canada, affecting four per cent of the population, which is more than autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome combined. Ninety per cent of individuals with FASD also experience metal health issues and a similarly high proportion struggle with substance use and addictions.

Adverse outcomes for these folks are also common, with individuals struggling in school, at work if they are able to find appropriate employment and in and out of corrections facilities that are not structured to support or remediate someone with a brain injury such as FASD.

FASD is caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.

Early diagnosis and intervention improves outcomes.

The lack of awareness and understanding of the increasing level of research and knowledge about effective, prevention, diagnosis and intervention opportunities continues to be a barrier to reducing the number of births of children with FASD and providing more appropriate and effective supports to individuals and families dealing with FASD.

Each year the Canada FASD Research Network (CanFASD) holds out hope that the federal government will put much needed resources in the budget to turn this ship around. The prevalence is going up, not down. Binge drinking is at an all-time high in women of child-bearing age. Sixty-one per cent of pregnancies are unplanned. Alcohol has been completely normalized as part of the Canadian culture. The provinces and territories have figured it out and are working to apply portions of tax proceeds from alcohol to raise awareness of the risks of consuming alcohol during pregnancy but the federal government continues to fail to realize the tremendous potential to reduce incidences of FASD across the country and provide much better support to individuals and families.

CanFASD continues to generate evidence and translate knowledge in Canada with limited funds from the provinces/territories. With a stronger federal government commitment, we could improve the lives of many individuals, their families, their communities and better equip service providers with evidence-based options.

CanFASD ­­­represents researchers, individuals with FASD, families and caregivers, FASD diagnostic clinics and service providers who are all frustrated with the lack of federal leadership and funding with respect to FASD.

Over 1.5 million people are currently living with FASD in Canada – they and all the people who support them will have to find every opportunity to ensure the federal government becomes much more aware of the need and of the potential opportunity that will result from addressing FASD effectively.­­

Audrey McFarlane
Executive Director, the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD)

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