National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Intergovernmental committee on Drugs working party on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Australia: An Update

June 2012

8.4 Professional Development Needs

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Given the above, important questions arise regarding the most appropriate strategies to guard against FASD and to mitigate against its potential consequences. Training professionals who are likely to encounter FASD or to have prevention opportunities available to them is often considered as an appropriate starting point, especially as FASD is a relatively recently recognised phenomenon*. To date, few professionals would have received much, if any, training about FASD. Training, however, while important, is not an adequate solution in itself. From a workforce development perspective, training represents the small tip of a large and more complex set of factors that must also be tackled, as illustrated in Figure 9.1, if an adequate response to this important issue is to be achieved.

Figure 8.1. The different levels and components of workforce development
Figure 8.1. The different levels and components of workforce development. For more detailed description of the image please refer to descriptive link next to the image. Description of the image

Until relatively recently, addressing issues related to young women’s drinking and its implications for FASD was not an area of interest for the vast majority of health and human services professionals. It is a new issue of concern and it faces the challenges that most innovations or new issues face. As such, it encounters similar challenges and barriers that the introduction of any new development, especially where a change in behaviour or systems response is entailed.

Professor Elizabeth Elliott has argued that ‘Failure to provide information about the dangers of alcohol consumption in the antenatal consultation represents a lost opportunity. Accurate recording of antenatal alcohol exposure will help identify children who require paediatric assessment. More importantly, identifying the women who are unable to stop drinking provides an important opening for the management of problem drinking and prevention of exposure to alcohol in future pregnancies (Boey 2008; Elliott and Bower 2008).

This description captures several features of relevance to a workforce development and systems change perspective including the need for better and improved information for workers; the need for better records to be kept (systems change); and the scope for early identification and intervention. A range of simultaneously implemented strategies covering all these points of access is needed. Simply focusing on education and training alone is not likely to be adequate or successful in either the short or long term.

* Attached in Appendix 1 is information is a list of the AOD courses available in Australia that indicate some inclusion of FASD content (this list was derived from a recent NCETA review of 1,144 AOD and mental health training courses; other courses may also contain FASD-relevant content that were not included in our database). It is important to not only focus on training, but see it as part of a comprehensive suite of intervention and access points.

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