Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board: Indian Leadership for Indian Health

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Key Indian Health Issues: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) have been an important issue for children, adults and families, across all ethnicities whenever alcohol is consumed during pregnancy.  Research shows that 1 to 3 ounces of alcohol a week during pregnancy can cause possible problems for the fetus.  Native studies reveal that many of our communities hold a high incidence of FASD producing devastating affects with a global impact on all aspects of community life.  Central to understanding the multigenerational and multidisciplinary aspect of fetal alcohol is a recognition of its comprehensive impact on all facets of life.  Alcohol exposure can produce a spectrum of issues ranging from infant death to developmental, physical, cognitive and emotional delays that may be manifested in low self-esteem, learning difficulties, physical anomalies, impulsivity and poor judgment.  FASDs are 100 percent preventable.image

Indian Country has led the response to this issue by developing the majority of prevention and intervention curricula.  However, just imparting this knowledge is not enough. What we lack are the appropriate vehicles to get us to, or even effectively facilitate, interventions. We must create an awareness that re-teaches and reinforces the knowledge taught by our ancestors that a child is a sacred gift. We must recognize that there are many among us whose lives are already impacted and for whom interventions will result in prevention for future generations. For our children and the parents of our children who are already affected, we must move beyond blame and gloom and doom to demonstrate interventions that successfully utilize the strengths of these individuals. We must also promote holistic healing through traditional and developmentally appropriate techniques that address the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals affected by an FASD.

The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board’s FASD Tribal Project is working in collaboration with tribes in Oregon Idaho and Washington, as well as, Indian Health Service, University of Washington FAS/FAE Legal Issues Resource Center, National Indian Justice Center, Idaho Native American Families Together (project for advocacy for children and parent in special education), Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit, University of Washington, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network, University of Washington, Oregon State Department of Mental Health and Human Services, Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, Skagit County Juvenile Justice Project, Suquamish FASD Justice Project, FASD Center for Excellence, and SAMSHA to reduce the level of FASD and its global affects on tribal communities through the development of effective culturally congruent prevention and intervention programs and multidisciplinary collaborative partnerships (circles of collaborative care).  The project assists tribes in developing prevention and intervention strategies to create an awareness of the problem, disseminates information, assists in the creation of FASD community task forces, offers technical assistance and training including Individual Education Plans (IEP), prenatal counseling and support services, and assists in identification and assessment of alcohol-affected individuals and referral to diagnostic evaluation.

Visit our Northwest Tribal Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Project for more information.