Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Western Australia

What is this research about? 

 

This study will look at the prevalence (how common) of children diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) who were born in Western Australia from 1980 to November 2010 and the diagnoses reported to the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies (WARDA). Birth prevalence per 1000 births will be calculated by year of birth to examine trends over time. Prevalence ratios (whether this differs between groups) will be used to describe the demographic and clinical characteristics, such as maternal age, socio-economic status and place of residence, and age of the child when FAS was diagnosed.

 

The project was conducted at the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies (WARDA) and the Telethon Kids Institute.

  

This project was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Program Grant (#572742).

 

 

 

Who conducted this research? 

 

Researchers

  • Professor Carol Bower Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of western Australia; Medical Specialist and Head, Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies, Women and Newborn Health Service
  • Dr Rochelle Watkins, Senior Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Raewyn Mutch Paediatrician and Clinical Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia

 

 

 

 

What did we do?

 

We obtained un-named information on all cases of FASD notified to the WARDA, born in WA from 1980 to 2010. We calculated the birth prevalence of FASD per 1000 births by year of birth and by demographic and clinical characteristics.

 

We examined trends in FASD over time, and described the demographic and clinical characteristics, such as maternal age, place of residence, presence of other birth defects and age of the child when FASD was diagnosed.

 

 

 

What did we find?

  • The overall birth prevalence was 0.26 per 1000 births
  • 85% of cases were Aboriginal
  • Low birth weight, preterm birth and other birth defects were common
  • There was a two-fold increase in prevalence over the study period 1980-2010, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cases. This is almost certainly due to:
  1. increased awareness of FASD in Western Australia
  2. response to research, development and distribution of educational resources for health professionals
  3. state and national parliamentary enquiries,
  4. development of a Model of Care for FASD by the WA Department of Health
  5. Aboriginal-led alcohol restrictions in a WA community
  6. media coverage of FASD
  • Nevertheless, FASD is still likely to be underdiagnosed and under-reported

 

 

 

Benefits from this research

 

This study is the largest population-based study of FASD in Australia

  • Lead to an improvement in diagnosis of FASD
  • Population surveillance data such as these will be valuable in advocating for and monitoring the effectiveness of preventive activities and diagnostic and management services for FASD in Australia

 

 

 

What did we do next?

 

We have published a paper in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Notifications to the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies

 

We obtained funding to look at the health and adverse life events of the children reported to WARDA with FASD using linked data. This is a way of connecting pieces of information about the children from different agencies in Western Australia such as the Departments of Health, Education, Disability Services and Corrective Services. The data used in this project will be in an anonymous form.

Read more about this project

 

 

For further information please contact Professor Carol Bower