The Hon Greg Hunt MP has announced more than $37 million for FASD diagnostic services to increase access and reduce waiting times, as well as launching an Australian-first awareness campaign to reduce the risk and incidence of FASD.
Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, a world-renowned FASD leader from the Faculty of Medicine and Health, was awarded $4.8 million for the expansion of statewide services for the diagnosis and management FASD in children and adolescents through consortium FASD NSW.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a preventable condition caused by alcohol exposure before birth. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with birth defects, growth problems and specific facial features.
Children with FASD have a range of problems with learning, development and behaviour and do best with early diagnosis and treatment. Longer term, people with FASD may face serious problems at school, unemployment and homelessness, and have an average life expectancy of just 34 years.
Professor Elliot will work with key partner, CICADA led by Dr Bronwyn Milne at the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network (Westmead), to expand services for high-risk children and adolescents.
“Currently CICADA is only funded one day per week, yet it receives more than 200 referrals a year and has a waitlist of approximately 12 months,” said Professor Elliott.
“We need increased state-wide capacity for these vulnerable children of whom 31 per cent come from regional/remote NSW, 47 per cent are Indigenous, 83 per cent live in out-of-home care and many have early life trauma or contact with the justice system.
“This new funding will mean we can reach these children, allowing for our current service to operate as a hub-and-spoke model working with sites in multiple rural and regional communities across NSW.”
The FASD NSW consortium members include CICADA Centre NSW, the Rural and Remote Medical Service, the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, NSW Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, the NSW Children's Court, Youth Koori Court and Children's Court Clinic, the NSW Substance Use in Pregnancy and Parenting Service, and the National Organisation for FASD Australia (NOFASD).
Recent studies show that up to 60 percent of Australian women have consumed alcohol to some degree during pregnancy. Elizabeth Elliott knows only too well the dangers of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and her advice is clear: party over.