If you're looking for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) you have come to the right place. We have some exciting news about our organization. We have a new name! MOFAS has officially been renamed Proof Alliance. Our mission remains the same: to prevent prenatal alcohol exposure and to improve the quality of life for people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
We now have the proof that prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause of brain injury in children. We have the proof that FASD is 100% preventable and people living with an FASD can reach 100% of their potential.
We seek to build powerful alliances with people with an FASD, their families, legislators, experts in the field, new partners, and community members to bring awareness, research, and services to this field.
Proof Alliance is rebranding, expanding, and we're moving! We have a new logo, website, and prevention campaign to help change the norms around drinking during pregnancy. And in May 2019 we will be moving to a stand-alone building. Proof Alliance commits to the people of Minnesota and we will continue to develop transformative programs to help Minnesotans impacted by FASD.
By: Anna McLafferty, Director of Caregiver Support Services
NIH Study Finds as Many as 1 in 20 First Graders Are Affected by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS MAY BE AT LEAST TWICE AS COMMON AS AUTISM
February 6, 2018
Saint Paul, Minn. – Today, JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, published the results of a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study that measured the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) among first-grade students in four U.S. communities. Over 6,500 children were evaluated, and the most conservative estimate for FASD ranged from 1 to 5%, or one in 20 students. When scientists applied this rate to the remaining first graders in each community who were not evaluated, the overall estimate for FASD was even higher, ranging from 3 to 9.8% among the study sites. If these study results were to be extrapolated to Minnesota, it would mean that up to 3,200 first graders in Minnesota have an FASD.
The study stated that there is “mounting evidence that harmful fetal alcohol exposure is common in the United States.” The figures are consistent with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 10% of pregnant women report drinking alcohol and 3% report binge drinking, putting over 100,000 births in the U.S. each year at high risk for FASD. In contrast to this new FASD data, the CDC’s most recent estimates for autism spectrum disorders are 1.5%, or one in 68, of U.S. children.
Contrary to common beliefs, moderate or even light drinking during pregnancy can cause lifelong impairments. While higher amounts of alcohol exposure generally increase a developing fetus’s risk for FASD, not fully understood genetic, nutritional, and other factors make predicting the outcome for an alcohol exposed newborn difficult. The fetal alcohol spectrum includes three diagnosable conditions associated with prenatal alcohol exposure: fetal alcohol syndrome, partial fetal alcohol syndrome, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders.
“This study reinforces that prenatal alcohol exposure is a huge public health issue that cannot be dismissed,” says Sara Messelt, executive director of the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS). “This is why MOFAS has advocated for twenty years, and continues to advocate, for state policy changes to prevent prenatal alcohol exposure, ensure women’s access to treatment, and support families impacted by FASD. We need more of all these things than we currently have.”
People on the fetal alcohol spectrum often go undiagnosed—only two of 222 children identified by the study’s researchers to have an FASD had already been diagnosed. One reason is that physical symptoms are rarely present, and other symptoms are often mistaken for mental health disorders: impaired memory, learning and behavioral problems, and deficits in executive functioning, the neurologically-based skills involving control and self-regulation, and adaptive behavior, or the ability to manage and control personal actions. Lack of capacity to diagnose FASD also helps explain why the disability gets so little attention. Evaluating a person for FASD correctly requires multiple types of evaluations, and funding streams do not completely cover the costs. Other major factors in the systemic lack of recognition of FASD include stigma, doctors not discussing drinking at prenatal appointments, and the lack of widespread knowledge that light or moderate drinking while pregnant can be a problem.
The percentage of people with an FASD diagnosis may be higher in Minnesota than the numbers in this study indicate. “Minnesota is a national leader in terms of identifying and addressing FASD, thanks to two decades of commitment from the state and advocacy to address this disability,” says Messelt, “but even still, we have so far to go.”
The study was conducted by the Collaboration on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevalence (CoFASP), which has studied the prevalence of FASD among school-age children for over a decade. The consortium is co-led by Philip May, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina Nutrition Research Institute, Kannapolis, and Christina Chambers, Ph.D., of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
The Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) has been the hub of hope for families affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), guiding and supporting families through the FASD journey since 1998. MOFAS is the leading voice and resource on FASD statewide, standing up for the rights of the FASD community, providing education and training so FASD is better understood and working to ensure that all women know that there is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. For more information, contact MOFAS at 651-917-2370 or visit www.proofalliance.org.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorder. Contact the study’s authors at NIAAAPressOffice@mail.nih.gov.
May, P.A., et al. Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 US Communities. JAMA. Online February 6, 2018.