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New FASD prevention video

The first ever Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention video aimed at mainstream Australia was launched on the Gold Coast today on 9 September for International FASD Awareness Day.

Developed by the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association (rffada), the health promotion video targets mothers and fathers who are planning a pregnancy, and is based on a successful initiative in Alaska produced by the Alaska Mental Health Trust.

Several months ago, FASD was an umbrella term for the range of disabilities caused by drinking alcohol while pregnant. Now FASD is a disability in its own right after Canada released new diagnostic criteria which, in its most basic form, states that there are two diagnostic terms – FASD with sentinel facial anomalies and FASD without sentinel facial anomalies.  FASD can occur as the result of any amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy. Recent research has also found that heavy drinking dads can also impact the wellbeing of the fetus at conception.

FASD is the leading cause of intellectual disability. Statistics from overseas suggest that prevalence in Australia could be as high as five per cent of the population – more than for Autism, Asperger’s and Down Syndrome combined.

Sadly, FASD is often misunderstood and goes unidentified, undiagnosed, and untreated in too many Australians.

There remains low awareness and understanding of the many risks associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

FASD is a whole of body condition that can affect the heart and kidneys, hearing and vision, and is associated with 400 other individual disease conditions. The primary challenge for many people with FASD is damage to the brain, particularly to the frontal lobe where the executive function is located. This brain injury can cause problems for a person with FASD in every aspect of their lives.

FASD should not be viewed as a relatively isolated condition. FASD is directly and indirectly responsible for meltdowns, misunderstandings, bizarre decisions, domestic and family violence, opportunistic crimes, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, clients with complex needs, homelessness, joy riding, inappropriate sexual behaviour, and high rates of ADHD.

This is the story that rffada set out to tell.

Over the last ten years in countless discussion papers and submissions, the rffada has been recommending a prevention video.

The new Australian video is the result of a successful but modest crowdfunding initiative and the generosity of a local film production company, Ring of Fire Productions. Everyone who worked on the project did so either for no remuneration or a dramatically reduced fee.

Without the expertise, assistance, and willingness of all those involved – including parents, medical professionals, the producer, director and photographer and actors, and My Pathway, an organisation delivering employment and other services in remote and mainstream locations – we would not have such a professional quality video to share today.

The new video not only offers a prevention message to parents, but also shows professionals, teachers, lawyers, allied health providers, and other professionals the typical trajectory of an undiagnosed individual.

The rffada has contacted several television stations and cinemas and hopes to distribute the video through major cinema outlets and as community service announcements on local television stations.

We are still determined to obtain much need funding, so that we could also ensure that the video is distributed in those locations where free community advertising is not available.

This is such an important health message for future generations. This campaign will help save lives and prevent children being born with preventable disabilities.

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For further information, you can contact the rffada on 0412 550 540, or visit www.rffada.org.

You can also subscribe to rffada’s YouTube channel and connect with other locals in your community through the rrfada Facebook support groups.

Anne Russell

Anne is the biological mother of two adult children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). She started working to support people with FASD in 2000 and in 2005, her first book ‘Alcohol and Pregnancy – A Mother’s Responsible Disturbance’ was published. In 2007 Anne founded the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association and in 2010 developed the first publicly available FASD training modules in Australia.

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