no alcohol signA recent study completed by researchers at the University of New South Wales addresses the issue of counting women at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. According to the study, published in the Drug and Alcohol Review, cases of fetal alcohol syndrome in Australia are underreported, which could impact the effectiveness of programs designed to reduce the number of children born with or at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. Though the study was completed in Australia, the lack of effective case counting could be relevant internationally.

Based on the researcher’s data collection, the majority of information used to count cases of fetal alcohol is based on clinical research (studies) and passive surveillance. Most cases in Australia are determined based on passive surveillance, which likely results in reports showing fewer than actual cases. Researchers believe the only answer is to formulate a consensus method of accurately counting cases of fetal alcohol syndrome so policy, education and prevention efforts meet need.

Source: Burns L, Breen C, Bower C, O' Leary C, Elliott EJ. Counting Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Australia: The evidence and the challenges. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2013 Apr 25. doi: 10.1111/dar.12047.