Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question on fetal alcohol syndrome by the hon. member for Mississauga South whose interest in the matter is unabated.
Alcohol use during pregnancy is a national health concern. Alcohol can affect the health of the mother, the fetus and the ability of the affected child to lead a healthy life even throughout adulthood. Fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS is a medical diagnosis that refers to a set of alcohol related disabilities associated with the use of alcohol during pregnancy. FAS children may suffer from a wide variety of physical and behavioural problems including learning disabilities. These children tend to have poor school experiences and as adults are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.
The joint statement on prevention of FAS in Canada was developed by 18 national and grassroots health organizations and the Department of Health. The main message in the statements is that women are advised to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. The statement also calls for appropriate family centres and culturally sensitive treatment programs for women addicted to alcohol. These recommendations address primary prevention of FAS, that is preventing the problem from occurring.
There is also the need for accurate diagnosis, treatment of FAS children and support services for their families. In addition, we need a better understanding of the rate of FAS in Canada and further research into the effect of follow up programs for affected children.
Health Canada is working with the co-signatories of the joint statement to continue to identify effective strategies in addressing these needs. The problem of alcohol use during pregnancy is a
challenge to all of us concerned with the health of women, children and their families.