National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Intergovernmental committee on Drugs working party on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Monograph

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Australia: An Update

June 2012

5.3 Monitoring FAS in Australia

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One method used to monitor FAS in Australia is through Birth Defects Registers in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. These registers are population based, passive surveillance systems established to monitor birth defects detected during pregnancy or at birth or diagnosed in infants up to a certain age. Birth defects are defined as alcohol-related if identified as such by the contributing clinician. However, because contributors are asked to report birth defects rather than syndromes by some registers, and as information on maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy is not routinely collected, it is likely that there is under-ascertainment of FAS.

FAS was studied between 2001 and 2004 by the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU), a national resource established in 1993 to facilitate active, national surveillance of selected uncommon childhood diseases, with monthly reporting of incident cases by child health specialists. The diseases investigated are chosen for their public health significance and impact on health resources.

Currently a population based study using active case ascertainment is being conducted to estimate FASD prevalence in primary school aged children in the remote high risk setting of the Fitzroy Valley, WA (Australian Human Rights Commission 2011; Fitzpatrick et al. 2012). The study, Marulu: The Lililwan Project, was initiated by the Fitzroy Valley community. This project is a collaboration between Nindilingarri Cultural Health Service and Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in the Fitzroy Valley and the George Institute for International Health and the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health at University of Sydney. It involves assessment of exposure to alcohol in a cohort and utilises the expertise of a multidisciplinary team (including paediatricians, allied health professionals and psychologists) to perform health and development assessments on children and exclude or allocate a diagnosis of FASD (Elliott et al. 2012; Fitzpatrick et al. 2012).

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