New publication to assist healthcare providers in the diagnosis and recognition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

11 Aug 2020
Pregnant woman refuses drinking alcohol

Washington, D.C., 11 August 2020 (PAHO/WHO) - The Pan American Health Organization has published a training workbook on assessment of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), in Spanish- and English-language versions, aimed at healthcare providers to assist in the diagnosis and recognition of FASD.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders represent a range of physical, mental, and behavioral disabilities caused by alcohol use at any point during pregnancy.

In the Americas, it is estimated that 11.2% of women drink during pregnancy. FASDs are considered to be one of the leading preventable causes of developmental disability, with an estimated 119,000 children being born with FASD each year in the world. 

Despite its high prevalence, FASD is often misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed, delaying interventions and making them more challenging. A multidisciplinary team of providers who understand the diagnostic requirements is crucial for an accurate FASD diagnosis.

The material can be used as a supplement for in person training and contains growth charts and case-based learning modules among other resources. The publication is made freely available on the Pan American Health Organization's website in hope that it will help raise awareness about FASD in the Americas.

FASD can present itself at any age, so knowledge and confirmation of documented prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is valuable to diagnosis and future prevention efforts. Awareness on how to diagnose FASD is important because FASD is associated with comorbidities like substance abuse, learning and cognitive disabilities associated with school failure, and negative life outcomes.