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Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Aotearoa, New Zealand: Estimates of prevalence and indications of inequity.

Drug and Alcohol Review 2023 Februrary 22
INTRODUCTION: Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is 100% caused by alcohol. The lifelong disability caused by prenatal alcohol exposure cannot be reversed. Lack of reliable national prevalence estimates of FASD is common internationally and true of Aotearoa, New Zealand. This study modelled the national prevalence of FASD and differences by ethnicity.

METHODS: FASD prevalence was estimated from self-reported data on any alcohol use during pregnancy for 2012/2013 and 2018/2019, combined with risk estimates for FASD from a meta-analysis of case-ascertainment or clinic-based studies in seven other countries. A sensitivity analysis using four more recent active case ascertainment studies was performed to account for the possibility of underestimation.

RESULTS: We estimated FASD prevalence in the general population to be 1.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0%; 2.7%) in the 2012/2013 year. For Māori, the prevalence was significantly higher than for Pasifika and Asian populations. In the 2018/2019 year, FASD prevalence was 1.3% (95% CI 0.9%; 1.9%). For Māori, the prevalence was significantly higher than for Pasifika and Asian populations. The sensitivity analysis estimated the prevalence of FASD in the 2018/2019 year to range between 1.1% and 3.9% and for Māori, from 1.7% to 6.3%.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: This study used methodology from comparative risk assessments, using the best available national data. These findings are probably underestimates but indicate a disproportionate experience of FASD by Māori compared with some ethnicities. The findings support the need for policy and prevention initiatives to support alcohol-free pregnancies to reduce lifelong disability caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.

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