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Fighting for the unborn

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Coral Harbour (Nov 20/06) - The Hamlet of Coral Harbour held a special awareness day this past September to draw attention to the problem of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the community.

The disorder, commonly referred to as FASD, is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol, a leading cause of preventable birth defects.

Spina bifida, Down syndrome and FASD are the top three known causes of developmental delay in Canadian children.

There is no cure for FASD and the damage is irreversible.

Close to 40 people took part in the day's activities, with 20 service providers attending a lunch-and-learn session at the Coral health centre.

Nurse-in-charge Judy Burns said the providers watched a video, went through available resources and collaborated with each other on the battle against FASD.

Later in the day, a series of learning sessions, games and events, such as lighting a candle of promise, were held for pre-natal people.

Burns said Coral may be a dry community, but that doesn't mean FASD doesn't exist there.

"FASD presents a problem in every community," said Burns.

"None of us are naive. We know alcohol is always available, whether you live in a dry community or not.

"We have FASD here and one case is one too many.

"Our goal is to reach the point where we don't have any cases in Coral."

Burns said public awareness and education are the keys to defeating FASD once and for all.

She said what's most infuriating about FASD, is that it's 100 per cent preventable.

"There are little pins put out by the FASD Association for women to wear, so they can let the community know they've taken a stand and are not going to drink while they're pregnant.

"Women who take part in the program have a support person who is always available to help them over any rough spots, and to offer encouragement and support throughout their pregnancy.

"The importance of the person who provides the support to the expectant mother should not be overlooked.

"The certificate given to that person shows their effort is appreciated, and sends a positive message to the moms to be that, while it may be tough for some to stay away from alcohol during their pregnancy, they're not in the battle alone."