The leader of a University of Salford team examining foetal alcohol spectrum disorder says that there is more work to be done on researching the disorder.
Professor Penny Cook and her team from the university released the results of the first ever UK-based study into foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), but has said that they do not want to stop there.
Professor Cook led the research after it was commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.
She said: “As well as doing a bigger study that would cover more of the UK and Ireland; we would like to carry on developing our research around supporting children. I think it is one thing to identify it but there is still a big gap in what to do when children have got it.
“FASD is not so well recognised, and that is what is so surprising because it is actually rather common. I think most people have heard of autism and they’ve never heard of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder even though we believe it is actually more common, or at least just as common.”
Even though FASD is claimed to be just as common as autism, the funding for foetal alcohol syndrome research is nowhere near parity.
Professor Cook goes on to say: “With the funding that came to Salford, I think I worked it out that about 50 pence per person with FASD was being spent in the UK, and the equivalent figure for autism research worked out to be about £15.
“So, the magnitude of funding that’s gone into autism, which maybe as prevalent if not slightly less prevalent, was hugely more.”
The original foetal alcohol syndrome research found that 1.8% of children taking part had FASD, which is the equivalent of 619 children across the Greater Manchester area. This statistic increased, however, when it included the number of children who potentially had the disorder (3.6%, or 1,238 children).
A lot of children with FASD are misdiagnosed or do not receive a diagnosis at all, leading many children to not receive the correct support needed throughout their lives.
The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership has been leading the way in addressing and highlighting the harms of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
As well as commissioning the University of Salford’s research, they have also been pioneers in campaigns such as ‘#DRYMESTER’, which aims to provide support to pregnant women during each trimester.
Professor Cook explained: “The concept of the Drymester is similar to dry January, it is a play on the term trimester, and you get one person per trimester to buddy up with and they don’t drink for a whole Trimester with you”.
The Drymester program was recently highlighted in the governments national FASD health needs assessment, with Professor Penny Cook and her team’s study also underlying the importance of such campaigns and shedding a light on more widespread action throughout the United Kingdom.