Waking Up to the Realities of FASD

Article excerpt

France tackling growing problem

Europe is waking up to the fact it has a problem with FASD, and it is turning to Canada -- and Manitoba in particular -- for help.

A delegation of eight French researchers, medical doctors, and government officials has spent much of the week in Winnipeg meeting with local experts as that country tries to develop a national strategy for dealing with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

"We know that in Manitoba you have a vast program which has integrated the different aspects of FASD," said Dr. Carmen Kreft-Jais, senior consultant with the National Institute for Prevention and Health Education in Paris. "As in Canada, we have problems with alcohol consumption."

Of the 850,000 births per year in France, it's estimated between 700 and 3,000 will have FASD.

The French want to improve screening, education and treatment programs and are keenly interested in research being done at the University of Manitoba. France -- and other European countries -- is at least a decade behind Canada in these areas.

Manitoba is a leading centre for FASD research and treatment. No fewer than 10 Manitobans are scheduled to make presentations at the 5th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Vancouver from Feb. 27 to March 2.

Several members of the French delegation came to Canada early to tour Manitoba's FASD Centre, hear about the latest research here and talk to local officials about how FASD sufferers are handled by the criminal justice system.

In France, there is a severe lack of knowledge about FASD.

"So nothing is done," said Dr. Juliette Bloch, scientific director for a national body that finances services for disabled and elderly people in that country. The nation lacks specialized clinics to treat kids with FASD, she said.

An exception is on the French island La Reunion, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. …