Part 2 – Public Health Implications of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a pattern of physical and mental defects that occur in a fetus as a result of alcohol consumption by the mother during pregnancy. Alcohol is considered a teratogen. A teratogen is a substance known to be harmful to human development. Teratogen associated disorders can lead to chronic health and learning problems. When mothers drink while pregnant alcohol will cross the placental barrier and can cause damage to the developing fetus. Infants born with FAS commonly have growth deficiencies and specific craniofacial abnormalities which help in diagnosing the syndrome. The main ...view middle of the document...
(See Figure 1) There has been a concerning increase in alcohol usage amongst childbearing age women.
Public Health Concern & Approach to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The costs associated with FAS has to be considered one of the major public health concerns. There are many costs associated with FAS and range from Health Care, Addiction Services, Child Welfare, Special Needs Education, Productivity loss and Social Services . In 2002 a lifetime cost for one person with FAS was estimated to be $2 million. It is estimated that the United States spends over $4 billion annually on FAS . These figures only reflect the estimated costs of caring and supporting individuals with FAS. From a public health perspective, budgetary resources must be allocated to support prevention strategies, surveillance, medical care/support, and research for those affected by FAS.
Public Health Preventative Strategies
Since all fetal alcohol is preventable, finding a way to effectively help women refrain from drinking alcohol while pregnant is top priority. National surveys from 2006-2010 (CDC Facts Sheet-Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Women’s Health ) show that 1 in 2 women of childbearing age (age 18-44 yrs) use alcohol and that about 15% of them binge drink. It has also been reported that women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and have unexpected pregnancies. Further studies have shown that 1 of 20 pregnant women drank excessively before finding out they were pregnant, which would significantly increase fetal alcohol exposure. The public health approach to preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome includes three levels. The primary “Universal” approach focuses on stopping maternal drinking before it starts. Interventions included in the universal approach include mass media campaigns, billboards, pamphlets or advertisements geared towards public awareness about the risks associated with drinking while pregnant. Also included in universal prevention would be federally required Surgeon General health notice labeling on all alcoholic beverage containers. The secondary “Selective” approach involves early detection...