A Compassionate Approach to Preventing Birth Defects
Every year nearly 12,000 babies are born with birth defects because of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The number of reported cases jumped sixfold between 1979 and 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) includes facial abnormalities and cognitive problems that can be devastating both for children and their parents.
The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) is fighting back. NOFAS is the only national organization dedicated to eliminating FAS and helping children and families already touched by alcohol-related birth defects.
On a modest budget, NOFAS has launched innovative programs across the country. A medical school curriculum teaches young doctors to recognize FAS risk factors and encourages physicians to get involved in prevention. Local education campaigns include peer-led education on alcohol and pregnancy, town meetings, and poster contests. NOFAS has special outreach to at-risk populations.
While federal agencies have debated the best way to approach FAS prevention, and older charities and the research community are mired in more endless studies of the problem, NOFAS has rolled up its sleeves and is working to stop it, focusing especially on high-risk communities. “Alcohol-related birth defects are 100 percent preventable,” says NOFAS president Lance Friedsam, and he and his team aim to do everything possible to do just that.
PCRM president Neal D. Barnard, M.D., agrees: “We know the cause of these devastating birth defects. NOFAS is leading the way to prevent them.”