n South African Medical Journal - Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders : prevalence rates in South Africa : the new millennium




Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is an under-diagnosed condition in South Africa (SA). Fetal alcohol syndrome and FASD community prevalence studies were undertaken in 17 towns in three of the nine provinces in SA.

The objective for all the studies was to determine the FASD prevalence rates by assessing the grade 1 learners in all the studies, using international FASD diagnostic criteria.
The same methodology was used for all the studies in Gauteng, Western and Northern Cape provinces. Consenting grade 1 learners received anthropometric screening, clinical examinations and neurodevelopmental assessments. Structured interviews were used to assess maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Reported prevalence rates ranged from 29 to 290 per 1 000 live births.
FASD rates from studies conducted in SA are among the highest worldwide. FASD affects all communities in SA and is therefore a major public health concern in SA. Multidisciplinary and intersectoral interventions are urgently required to raise awareness about the dangers of prenatal alcohol exposure and the devastating effect of FASD on the lives of children, families and communities.


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