Message from Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day
September 9, 2009

September 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day, which presents all Canadians with an opportunity to consider the risks, consequences, and life-long challenges associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy.Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe a range of disabilities that may affect children of mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy. The affected children may experience a range of cognitive, medical, physical, and mental health challenges throughout their lifetimes.

Our Government is committed to working with the provinces and territories to prevent future incidence of FASD and to support those already living with this disability.

For example, the Government of Canada provides $5 million annually for the Pan-Canadian FASD Initiative, which is designed to ensure that everyone, who has made a commitment to action on FASD, is working towards common goals. The objectives of the FASD Initiative are to prevent future incidences of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, as well as to improve the outcomes for those who have already suffered the effects of this life-long disability.

Also, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada invests $16 million annually to support First Nations and Inuit communities in developing FASD-prevention programs for women at risk of drinking during pregnancy and programs for children affected by FASD. This investment is supporting approximately 40 community mentoring projects to provide women at risk of drinking while pregnant with ongoing support and links to services, as well as Community Coordinator positions to increase families’ access to multi-disciplinary diagnostic teams and other services.

Research has demonstrated that early identification and intervention in the lives of young children (0-6 years) improves health outcomes. The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) for First Nations and Inuit actively supports women dealing with substance abuse during pregnancy by providing them with access to health and social services and referral services to FASD programs.

The Maternal Child Health Program builds on investments in FASD prevention by helping families with special-needs children navigate and access appropriate services and support. The Aboriginal Head Start Program On Reserve and in urban and northern communities provide early intervention supports for children and their families. Children affected by FASD are supported through early-intervention activities to minimize the impact of this disability on their lives. For individuals and families affected by FASD, the challenges can seem overwhelming. But, by working together, governments, communities and experts are making a difference.

On September 9, International FASD Awareness Day, please take a moment to think about how you can raise awareness about FASD and show support for the those affected by FASD in your community.

Remember, if a woman is pregnant, at no time during her pregnancy is any type or amount of alcohol considered “safe” for her baby. And, if someone you know is pregnant, you can help her by supporting her decision not to drink.

For more information on FASD, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada or Health Canada website.

Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health
Government of Canada

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