CMR News Bulletins

Population-Based Surveillance of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

About the Study...

The population-based surveillance of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was a nationwide effort to determine the prevalence of FAS within several geographically-defined areas in the U.S., including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin and New York. Development of a surveillance system for FAS presents unique challenges that cannot be met by current birth defects monitoring programs focusing only on the first year of life. The diagnosis of FAS is based primarily on clinical examination and the application of diagnostic criteria in each of three categories: (1) prenatal or postnatal growth retardation, (2) central nervous system abnormalities which may manifest as developmental delays in childhood, and (3) characteristic abnormal facial features. Some of the cardinal facial features and central nervous system abnormalities are less marked during the first year of life but develop as a child matures. For this reason, a multiple source method of surveillance was be relied on. The theoretical basis for this multiple source approach was that children with FAS, because of the nature of the health and developmental problems associated with the condition, were likely to encounter one or more of these resources for services at some point in early childhood or school age. An integral component of a multiple-source methodology was provider education and training to ensure that a correct diagnosis is made. This FASSNet project was conducted from 1997 to 2003. Several publications resulted from the cork and other data analysis is ongoing.

In New York....

  • FAS surveillance efforts for the FASSNet project, took place in the Western New York region (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties) and Monroe County. Since 2003, we have continued surveillance exclusively in Erie County.