The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) supports a new Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevention program in Alaska to put free pregnancy tests in the restrooms of 20 bars and restaurants.
This program is a two-year, $400,000 project funded by the state of Alaska and led by Dr. David Driscoll, Director of the University of Alaska at Anchorage’s Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS). This campaign was first reported by the Anchorage Daily News and has since been covered by Time Magazine, FOX News, The Today Show, and many other major national news outlets.
NOFAS commends the State of Alaska, the University of Alaska, and Dr. Driscoll and his team for supporting and developing this innovative project and for drawing much-needed public and media attention to the issue of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
NOFAS supports this program as a promising public health strategy for preventing FASD, the leading known cause of intellectual disabilities in the United States affecting an estimated 1 in 100 children. Fortunately, FASD is completely preventable if expectant mothers abstain from alcohol, making initiatives that could potentially reduce the mixing of alcohol and pregnancy a priority. NOFAS, the U.S. Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and all disability and practitioner associations advise that no amount of alcohol is without risk during pregnancy.
Approximately half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, thus many women who are aware of the risk still might drink because they may not know or even suspect that they are pregnant. This can be particularly damaging, as the developing baby is especially vulnerable to alcohol exposure during the early weeks of pregnancy.
The Alaska project is a potentially important part of an overall, comprehensive approach to FASD prevention. Providing free pregnancy tests will allow women who enjoy alcohol as a lifestyle choice to quickly and conveniently confirm if they are or are not pregnant, so they can make a decision about drinking alcohol accordingly. The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are dose-respondent, the greater the amount and frequency of alcohol use the greater the risk, so the earlier in the pregnancy the woman stops drinking, the healthier the baby will be. Preventing FASD also benefits society by reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the substantial lifetime economic costs of FASD, in terms of healthcare, education, and other direct services.
NOFAS is a nonprofit, public health advocacy organization committed to preventing alcohol-related birth defects and supporting individuals, families, and communities living with FASD.