Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects

This section profiles Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE) as it affects First Nations and Inuit communities and some of the strategies that are being used to deal with these conditions.

Here you will find tools to help understand and deal with FAS/FAE. You will find references to publications, community projects, contact names, links to other sites, and additional resources that will be of use to those engaged in the struggle around FAS/FAE.

A Serious Health Issue

(Excerpt from the "It Takes a Community" Report)

FAS and FAE are birth defects caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. FAS/FAE is a nation-wide health concern, and it does not discriminate on the basis of race, socioeconomic status, or sex. Because of lack of recognition and diagnosis, it is difficult to be certain how many individuals have FAS/FAE. About one baby out of 500 to 3000 annual live births will have FAS; this is called the incidence of FAS (how often a problem occurs annually).

The incidence of FAS is greater than the incidence of either Down's Syndrome or Spina Bifida. The incidence of FAE is 5 to 10 times higher than the incidence of FAS.

This means that, each year in Canada, somewhere between 123 - 740 babies are born with FAS, and around 1000 babies are born with FAE (based on 370,000 births per year). Prevalence means the number of people in a population that have a problem at a specific point in time.

FAS/FAE in First Nations and Inuit Communities

In the past, because of a lack of awareness of FAS/FAE, people have tended to focus on the negative aspects of FAS/FAE. Individuals affected by FAS/FAE have been isolated from their families and communities, and the communities' men, pregnant women, and mothers have been impacted by shame, guilt, and grief.

Strategies are emerging, as is the awareness of ways to address FAS/FAE issues through prevention, identification, and intervention efforts. With support and intervention, FAS/FAE affected individuals can lead productive lives. Most importantly, people are beginning to realize that FAS/FAE are community issues that need to be addressed on an individual, family, and community level, utilizing partnerships at the regional and national level.

Through education, awareness, support, and healing, FAS/FAE can be prevented.

Sharing Information

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Indigenous Health between Health Canada and the Department of Health and Human Services of the Government of the United States of America was signed on May 13, 2002. One of the key areas for action under the MOU was Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Over the past five years, this partnership has been an excellent vehicle to share information on best practices and current research, facilitate and support Indigenous-to-Indigenous and government-to-government relationships, and strengthen collaboration in both countries.

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