In Health

Western Australia Minister for Mental Health Helen Morton

Raising Awareness Of Alcohol’s Impact On The Developing Brain

Victor P Taffa

Changing the harmful drinking culture in Western Australia is the first step to preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), according to Mental Health Minister Helen Morton.

Mrs. Morton’s comments came while opening the inaugural Impacts of Alcohol Forum: Brain Development and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder forum for McCusker Centre for Action on Youth and Alcohol.

The Minister said the impact alcohol had on the developing brain was of growing concern, particularly as the harmful causes of alcohol were preventable.

“Given that approximately half of all pregnancies are unplanned, it is very likely that many women inadvertently expose their unborn child to alcohol before they are aware of their pregnancy.” Mrs. Morton said.

“We are dealing with complex social issues such as young women are risky drinking, how this may impact on an unborn child, and FASD.”

The forum will see key researchers, health professionals, government representatives and not-for-profit agencies discuss what can be done to prevent harm to young people resulting from their own or another’s alcohol use.

Australian surveys of women found that during pregnancy, up to 59 % of the women surveyed reported consuming alcohol at some time during pregnancy, with only 41 % of women abstaining in all three trimesters.

The Minister said the State Government’s ‘Alcohol Think Again’ campaign was one initiative created to curb the harmful effects of alcohol.

“The idea that if we decrease harmful drinking across the population, there is likelihood the incidence of FASD could be reduced.” Mrs. Morton said.

The 2011-12 State Budget allocated more than $20 Million in new funding over four years, including State Government Royalties for Regions funding, for the expansion of alcohol and other drug services in regional areas of high priority.

“The Drug and Alcohol Office has also received $2.2 Million over four years to develop State-wide Aboriginal FASD prevention initiatives under the COAG Closing the Gap Indigenous Early Childhood Development National Partnership.” Mrs. Morton said.

“FASD is a preventable disorder that poses a risk to women and their children right now, and in the absence of action, for generations to come. That is why it is encouraging to see so many people working to make a difference regarding this important issue.” Mrs. Morton said.

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