I’m delighted to be a visiting scholar for the University of Minnesota’s Department of Child Psychiatry this week. I had the opportunity to meet with many people from the Department who are doing amazing work to prevent and treat Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I presented at the MOFAS “FASD and Human Rights” conference today: “From Deinstitutionalization to Incarceration – The Human Rights Tragedy of FASD”. Perhaps more than any other agency in the country, MOFAS has taken the lead to address the leading preventable cause of neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disability in the world. Up to 50% of the 60,000 children adopted from Russia and the former Soviet countries have some degree of this problem and 1 in 20 (5%) of school age American children in middle class families are affected. These statistics are not surprising given that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and there are epidemic rates of childbearing age women binge drinking.
The efforts of the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have led to pregnancy test kits being put in some of the bars in this state to help women stop and think about whether they might be pregnant before they buy a drink. It’s a great idea, and a novel prevention approach. It will hopefully help non-pregnant alcohol consumers “stop and think” about preventing pregnancy before they drink. Though it’s only in 4 bars in the state, if this effort prevents only 4 children from having FAS, the state would save $850,000 per child, accounting for years of productive life lost and healthcare/mental health/delinquency costs. That would be nearly $1.5M the state could put toward educating its future citizens, creating opportunities for resources for families and prevention of this condition.
While pregnancy test kits are at least further upstream than the tiny warning label on alcohol, I’m our Better Safe than Sorry campaign goes to the small tributaries where the salmon are spawning. By alcohol consumers preventing pregnancy (through contraception) and avoiding alcohol if pregnant or planning a pregnancy, we will be able to stem the tide on this preventable epidemic. That’s why we say – It’s Better Safe than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!
Simply put – If you use alcohol, contracept!
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