September 9 – International FASD Awareness Day

“9th September is International FASD Awareness Day. The ninth day of the ninth month was chosen as a reminder of the risks associated with drinking alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy, and also to celebrate the achievements of those who live with the condition. Those risks include significant brain damage, impaired motor skills, heart murmurs and joint problems.”

That is the summary of FASD Awareness Day by project Me and My FASD, launched today by The National Organisation for FASD in UK.

FASD is a growing topic and gets noted not only on September 9 but daily by expert organisations also in the Nordic region. 

As Sari Somer from Finland said, “Nordic collaboration has really flourished.” As a testament to that, earlier this year FASD Nordic, a collaborative project between the Nordic countries was launched. The idea was initiated at an expert meeting arranged by the Nordic Welfare Center in Helsinki in the fall of 2019. FAS-föreningen in Sweden was given the trust to build a structure for such a platform. The goal is for FASD Nordic to contribute to disseminating knowledge about alcohol and drug-related birth defects between those who work professionally and do research in the area as well as between organisations, authorities and NGOs in the Nordic countries.

Katarina Wittgard

Katarina Wittgard, from FAS-föreningen (Sweden): “Last year we started the campaign 1av100 where we reached children’s healthcare personnel with information to improve their competence. This year we want to reach social service all over Sweden with this campaign. Printed folders have been sent to all 290 communes and of course the website 1av100.se is spread in social media.

On 9/9 we will launch a brand new chat-function on FAS-portalen. We are very proud to announce the first person who will answer questions about FASD is Dr Ihsan Sarman.” 

Sari SomerFASD Expert from The Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: “FASD is still not known well enough in Finland. Also, attitudes towards alcohol are a problem: Alcohol is not considered too dangerous enough to the fetus.  

Sari Somer

We have been influencing politicians about FASD in the Finnish Parliament. In November 2019, we held a seminar in the Parliament, which resulted in a written question about the rehabilitation of children with FASD, and the minister of health’s answer to the question. Nordic collaboration has really flourished! And FASD research has received a grant of 0,5 M euros.      

FASD Awareness Day is needed every year to raise awareness of the topic. Our main message is that although you have FASD, you can live a good life if you get the right kind of support. Information is needed to get the right support. Our NGO, FAIDD, emphasises FASD services, peer support and enhancing the quality of life for people who have FASD.   

For many years now, especially on 9.9., we have worked closely with ALKO (the government-owned alcohol company). 

This year many shops (S-market, R-kioski, ABC gas stations) that sell alcohol (up to 5,5%) are joining ALKO in raising awareness of the prevention of FASD. We are proud that awareness will get more attention.”   

Nete Lundager Klokker Rausgaard

Nete Lundager Klokker Rausgaard from the Odense University Hospital and Marcella Broccia from Aalborg University Hospital (Denmark): The Danish Family Outpatient Clinics has traditionally been the only unit directly addressing children with FASD until school age. Unfortunately, this offer is no longer nationwide after shutting down the children’s program on Zealand involving more than 450 children. Hence, children with FASD receive different, and to some extent, random follow-up in Denmark. After school age, there is no organised or structured follow-up program.

In order to raise awareness of FASD, there are, among other things, several ongoing research projects whose results will support evidence-based practice and provide new knowledge to decision-makers – which clarifies the need to prioritize children with FASD in the health system.

Identification, FASD awareness, and adequate follow-up are keywords for FASD. Until now, the focus has primarily been on prevention of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In 2019, The Danish Pediatric Society has published a guideline on FASD containing Danish criteria for FASD and recommendation for care. In order to prevent ill health and secondary disabilities among children with FASD there is an urge for implementation.

The international FASD awareness day is an appreciated and important day that creates community and awareness.

Our main message is that FASD requires attention like any other disease.”