The Institute of Nursing and Health Research
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
More than 80 delegates attended a research seminar on FASD, a joint venture, organised by Victor Robinson, from the Institute of Nursing Research at University of Ulster (ULSTER) in collaboration with the maternity service of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SET) at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, on Friday, 9th December 2010. The seminar, which aimed to raise awareness of FASD and the outcomes of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, was chaired by Dr Elaine Madden, Head of Midwifery and Gynaecological Services for the Trust.
Victor, who is leader in addictions within the School of Nursing at UU and jointly appointed as Research Lecturer Practitioner between the University and the Trust, presented an overview of his intended research study on FASD in Northern Ireland (NI). He also presented some findings from an initial pilot study undertaken within the Ulster Hospital Maternity Unit, the outcomes of which will be used to form part of his doctoral research by publication at ULSTER. The larger regional research study will ascertain levels of awareness, knowledge and understanding of FASD amongst health and social care professionals working in maternity services connected to each of the five Trusts in NI, as maternity is a more likely clinical environment to find professionals who are likely to encounter women using alcohol before or during pregnancy and where staff may witness the consequences of alcohol and pregnancy when a baby is born with FASD. Outcomes from the research will not only raise awareness about this totally preventable condition, but provide baseline information to address gaps in education and training for health and social care professionals. Consequently, FASD may be identified much sooner and children thereby will have a greater opportunity for an improved quality of life.
Binge Drinking Culture
‘NI is a region of the United Kingdom (UK) which is synonymous with a ‘binge drinking’ culture and where the incidence of alcohol consumption has increased alarmingly in recent years amongst the population of young women in particular. Despite this phenomenon, there are no indices or statistical evidence for FASD in NI whatsoever it would appear, an anomaly which is all the more peculiar when one considers the findings of NOFAS - UK (The National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the UK), who have estimated that some 6 - 7000 babies are born in Britain each year with alcohol related brain damage known as FASD. This translates to 1 in 100 children born or 1% of our population that may be affected by FASD.
Keynote speaker, Dr Raja Mukherjee, an Adult Learning Disability Consultant Psychiatrist from Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is an internationally recognised expert on FASD. He presented an overview of FASD with a particular focus upon the adverse health and social care impact of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the challenge of FASD as a potential consequence and outlined the responsibilities of health and social care professionals, in recognising FASD in their respective clinical practice, as well as those relevant bodies with strategic or operational responsibility for public health and health promotion.
Other speakers included Mrs Margaret McGillion and Danielle Devine. Margaret, representing the FASD Support Group in Derry/Londonderry, offered very personal reflections of the ‘lived experience’ and diverse range of challenges faced by foster parents like herself in raising and caring for a child with FASD and Danielle Devine described some brief intervention initiatives she is involved with as the Leader of the ‘Drink Think Project’ in Derry/Londonderry.
The seminar was funded through a Martha McMenamin Scholarship and a Bursary from the Belfast R&D Office, both of which were awarded to Victor Robinson in respect of his FASD research. Further funding to facilitate the running of the seminar was generously provided by the R&D Office of SET.