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25 Apr 2014 11:06
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  •   Home > News > Health & Safety

    Fetal alcohol research funding needed

    NZ needs to follow Australia in spending millions on research into the flow-on effects of mothers drinking while pregnant, a public health group says.

    The social cost of children born to mothers who drank during pregnancy may be costing New Zealand millions of dollars a year.

    But there is no money for research into a preventable problem which starts off as a health issue, but also spills over into schooling, justice and social development from children who suffer physical, behavioural and learning disorders from exposure to alcohol before birth.

    Australia will spend $20m investigating fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) this year, and Alcohol Healthwatch would love for New Zealand to do something similar.

    People have been trying for decades to get funding for more research and are still trying to get the government on board, says fetal alcohol network co-ordinator Christine Rogan.

    "It's a huge preventable public health issue," she told NZ Newswire.

    The only studies on FASD have been done overseas, and in the US and Canada it has been estimated those children may cost the system $1 million each.

    Those studies show:

    * The average age for first offending by a person affected by FASD is 13 years

    * Youths with FASD are 19 times more likely to get in trouble with the law.

    Studies in New Zealand indicated around 80 per cent of women were drinking before learning they were pregnant and between 25 and 34 per cent were still drinking after that.

    However, there were no studies following up on how that may affect their children.

    "We do have a society that's heavily marinated in alcohol and yet we are very quick to blame people for any harm that comes from that. I think we can do better than that," Ms Rogan said

    Auckland's District and Youth Court Judge Tony FitzGerald says the lack of research into FASD means offending is regarded simply as a criminal issue and young people are attracting increasingly severe punishment.

    Appropriate responses for those with FASD could mean they lead productive lives, he said.


    © 2014 NZN, NZCity

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