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International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day will be observed this year on Thursday. For 11 years, International FASD Awareness Day has been observed starting at 9:09 a.m. around the world, through each of the time zones, from New Zealand to Alaska.
FASD is a term used to describe more than 250 conditions that happen to children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. This group of disorders includes fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), fetal alcohol effects (FAE), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), among others. Children born with FASD can experience life-long physical, mental, behavioral and learning disabilities. It is common for children born with FASD to later experience school difficulties, juvenile delinquency, unemployment and crime.
Alaska has the nation's highest rate of FASD at 16.3 children per 1,000 births, and 1.5 children born with FAS per 1,000 births. That means about 160 children are born with FASD in Alaska each year, and about 15 of them have FAS. The McDowell Group estimates it costs as much as $3.1 million over the course of a lifetime to care for someone who is born with FASD.
"There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink at any time during pregnancy," said Gayle Young, SEARHC Neurodevelopmental Team Coordinator for the SEARHC Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic in Sitka. "Each time a pregnant woman drinks, her baby drinks too."
This year, Alaska's FASD Awareness Day observances will focus on honoring pregnant women making healthy choices. In communities throughout the state, including Sitka and Juneau, local restaurants and bars are providing free non-alcoholic beverages to pregnant women on Sept. 9.
For information about FASD prevention, screening and treatment, please contact Gayle Young at the SEARHC Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic at 966-8815 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about International FASD Awareness Day, go to www.fasday.com.