Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder program expanding with $1.5m funding


Monday, 11 September, 2023

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder program expanding with $1.5m funding

The expansion of a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) screening program will be explored in partnership with community organisations as part of a new National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project.

Professor Dianne Shanley of Griffith University and team will partner with community organisations, including Indigenous-led health service providers, to examine whether their Tracking Cube tool can be used by Indigenous health service providers nationwide.

The Tracking Cube tool is currently used for screening and supporting children in remote areas at risk of FASD, a neurodevelopmental disorder resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol.

FASD babies can suffer increased risk of premature birth, damage to their brain and other organs, ongoing disability and behavioural problems. According to the Australian Medical Association (AMA), more than 2% of Australian babies may be born with some form of FASD.

“Prevention of FASD is paramount. This research project builds on our commitment to support families and prevent babies being born with FASD in the first instance, including through the Australian Government’s Strong Born campaign,” said Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Working with local doctors and a remote Indigenous community, Shanley developed the Tracking Cube — a new approach for use in a primary care setting to screen and support children at risk of FASD. The Tracking Cube will integrate with everyday health checks and clinical decision-making tools, helping to triage children to support pathways.

The Tracking Cube also enables local general practitioners, nurses and Indigenous health workers to undertake culturally responsive assessments for FASD, helping families receive quality healthcare close to home and improving health equity.

Researchers found the Tracking Cube approach worked and local children are now 4.5 times more likely to be identified and supported.

The research project is receiving $1.5 million in funding and is one of eight research collaborations sharing in over $10.5 million in NHMRC) funding. Professor Shanley’s project is co-funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Obesity Prevention Research Special Initiative.

Image credit: iStock.com/wildpixel

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