Marlborough caregivers welcome government FASD plan

Blenheim resident Robyn Tucker plans on making a submission on a government FASD discussion paper. Tucker has a grandson ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Blenheim resident Robyn Tucker plans on making a submission on a government FASD discussion paper. Tucker has a grandson with the disorder.

Marlborough residents are being encouraged to have their say on a government discussion paper on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. 

The document was released by the Ministry of Health in December and contains information that will inform an action plan on the disorder to be released by the government in June. 

At present, New Zealand does not have a comprehensive strategy to address fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. 

The Ministry of Health discussion paper said the disorder was preventable.

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"If we can reduce the number of babies exposed to alcohol in the womb, we can reduce the number of people affected.

"Even after a disorder has developed, recognising and responding appropriately to a person with FASD can make a huge difference to that person's life and improve the outcomes for everyone."

The report estimated that 46,000 people had the disorder in New Zealand, at an annual cost of at least $690 million. 

Key outcomes listed in the discussion paper include supporting women to have alcohol-free pregnancies, making sure people with the disorder are identified and assessed early, as well as providing timely, joined-up support to people with FASD and their families. 

Blenheim woman Miranda Foulis, who cares for a 5-year-old grandson with the disorder, said she would be making a submission on the document. 

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"It's a good thing that the government recognises that there is a big problem and they are trying to make changes."

Former Marlborough resident Eleanor Bensemann, who has two grandchildren with the disorder, said it was important for the condition to be recognised as a disability through the government action plan. 

"That's the key to it really. This is the best opportunity that we've had for people with FASD to have their condition recognised."

Blenheim resident Robyn Tucker, who has a 7-year-old grandson with the disorder, said it was about time the government took action to support people with FASD. 

She was pleased to see a focus on identifying the disorder early.

"The earlier people are diagnosed the easier it's going to be in the long run." 

The Ministry of Health was accepting public submissions on the discussion document until February 26. 

Further information, including the full report and submission details, is available at health.govt.nz/publications.

WHAT IS FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDER?

- Alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects and brain damage in unborn babies. 

- 1 in 100 live births are thought to be affected by pre-natal alcohol exposure. 

- While heavy exposure early in pregnancy can result in visible birth defects, most disorders are neurological, and more difficult to diagnose. 

- Not all babies who are exposed to alcohol will be affected to the same degree. 

- Physical effects of alcohol exposure before birth can include: facial malformations, growth retardation, hearing and eyesight impairment and skeletal defects.

- Neurological problems linked to alcohol exposure before birth may include: sensory problems, impulsivity, memory difficulties as well as challenges with problem solving, thinking critically and learning from experience. 

Source: Alcohol Healthwatch

 - The Marlborough Express

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