Audio interview

New Zealand's neglected foetal alcohol problem

3 May 2015

Alcohol damage to unborn children has been described as one of New Zealand's biggest preventable health problems but it appears nobody knows the size of the problem or is actively trying to find out.

Eighteen months ago, the New Zealand government committed itself to implementing recommendations from a select committee inquiry into improving child health outcomes over Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). These included calls for specific actions and a study into the prevalence of FASD in New Zealand and should have been in place this month but, so far, nothing has been signed off.

Researchers have estimated, based on overseas studies and what's known about drinking in New Zealand, that up to 3000 babies are born every year with some sort of damage caused by their mother's drinking - which would work out to be 30,000 children in the last decade alone.

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