A summary of progress on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Action Plan

The Ministries of Health, Education and Primary Industries and the Health Promotion Agency (HPA) are responsible for delivering one or more of the actions in the plan. Oranga Tamariki – the Ministry for Children, the Department of Corrections, the New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Justice are all key contributors to the FASD Plan because a significant proportion of their clients are affected by FASD.

Progress made on the 10 action areas

Action Area 1: Increase collaboration and coordination to better support the activities aimed at shifting New Zealand’s drinking culture and targeting harmful alcohol consumption

A cross-agency coordination group has been meeting monthly for over a year to collaborate and coordinate cross-agency activities in the FASD Plan to shift New Zealand’s drinking culture and reduce harmful alcohol consumption.

HPA’s alcohol behaviour change programme is a significant part of its work to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm. The social marketing component of this programme is the award-winning Say Yeah, Nah initiative which has been running since May 2013. In February 2018 the fifth phase in the Say Yeah, Nah initiative was launched. The target audience is 18 to 24 year olds, as they drink more frequently and at riskier levels than other populations. Māori and Pacific young people in this age group are a priority.

Action Area 2: Develop and disseminate clear, unambiguous and consistent messages to increase the whole community's awareness of the risks of drinking during pregnancy, including FASD

Health Promotion Agency (HPA) has produced key messages for consumers and health professionals to raise awareness of the risks of drinking during pregnancy. A new consumer pamphlet will be available from late August. HPA has also been working with a range of professional and community stakeholders to prepare for the launch of the next phase of the alcohol and pregnancy campaign 'Don’t know?, Don't drink' later in September 2018.  

Action Area 3:  Support primary care to provide high-quality, responsive and equitable maternity care, including screening and brief intervention for alcohol

Existing guidelines have been reviewed and updated and new guidance is now being being finalised which supports health practitioners to screen and offer brief interventions for all women of child bearing age in relation to alcohol use during pregnancy. HPA is working with professional colleges to develop e-learning modules to support best practice around alcohol and pregnancy.

Action Area 4: Increase access to equitable and culturally competent sexual and reproductive health care

The Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Plan is in final draft, and is expected to be released later this year, and includes actions to increase access to equitable and culturally competent sexual and reproductive health care.

Action Area 5: Increase access to support and specialist services for women with alcohol and drug issues

The Waitemata pregnancy and parenting services programme was extended to three additional pilot locations for pregnant women and parents (with children aged under three years) who are experiencing alcohol and drug (AOD) issues. The new pilot locations are Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti.

Action Area 6: Enhance the ability of frontline professionals to recognise and respond effectively and compassionately to people with FASD and other neurodevelopmental impairments

The Ministry of Health has contracted Matua Raḵi, the national centre for addiction workforce development, to co-design training and resources for frontline health professionals to identify people with neurodevelopmental impairment and respond appropriately. The experiences of people living with FASD will inform the development of training and resources.

The Ministry of Children (Oranga Tamariki) along with NOFASD Australia hosted a FASD Eyebites Cards Webinar to showcase the FASD Eyebites Cards, a resource for practitioner, parents or carers working with people with FASD.

HPA has also funded Alcohol Healthwatch to deliver a number of FASD prevention and early intervention workshops with practitioners and clinicians.

The Ministry of Education has developed resources for teachers to improve knowledge and awareness of FASD and its effect on learning. These resources also include a range of strategies that teachers can use to help support students with FASD. These resources are available on the TKI website.

Action Area 7: Improve the capability of clinicians to diagnose FASD

The Ministry of Health has supported a number of clinicians from Auckland to attend training to build the capability and capacity of clinicians to diagnose and manage people with FASD in the Auckland metro region. Also, we've supported the development of an Australian/New Zealand network of clinicians working with people with neurodevelopmental conditions and FASD. A New Zealand clinician co-chairs the Australian/New Zealand FASD Clinical Network. Matua Raḵi is piloting education programmes for health professionals in two pilot sites as mentioned above.

Action Area 8: Improve cross-sector collaboration and capacity to provide effective assessments for people showing signs of significant neurodevelopmental impairment

The Ministry of Health continues to work with Oranga Tamariki to bolster the existing Gateway Assessment team to identify young people with neurocognitive and neurodevelopmental conditions coming into statutory care. Also, we’ve tested the accuracy and usability of software which uses clinical photography to assist a clinician to identify facial characteristics linked to fetal alcohol syndrome.  

Action Area 9:  Develop a coordinated, consistent, accessible and appropriately resourced pathway for supporting affected people and their families

FASD is part of wider group of neurodevelopmental conditions. People with neurological conditions will generally receive support through district health boards (DHBs).

The Ministry of Health has undertaken an initial stocktake of FASD interventions, services and supports in New Zealand. There are service gaps across the DHBs regions. Children with FASD often have complex needs and may require a multi-disciplinary team approach. DHBs are responsible for funding services for their own regions, and we do not hold information on the number of multi-disciplinary diagnostic teams centrally.

The Ministry has supported FASD-Care Action Network, a group of family and caregivers with children affected by FASD, to organise and coordinate face-to-face workshops for the parents, caregivers, and family members supporting individuals living with FASD to learn necessary and practical skills and strategies to decrease risk of secondary disabilities.

The Ministry of Health and Oranga Tamariki have tested pathways for responding to children coming into care and protection services with FASD (and generally high and complex needs). 

Action Area 10: Conduct research into the incidence of FASD and other neurodevelopmental impairments in a New Zealand cohort

Since 2016, the Ministry of Health has been working with the Auckland University and the Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) team to develop and use a set of psychometric indicators to identify children aged 8 years old with developmental or learning difficulties. A number of children from the ‘Leading Lights’ group of the GUiNZ study were offered a clinical assessment to see if FASD was the likely cause of their difficulties. The project is still ongoing and we expect to be able to provide an estimate of the prevalence of FASD in New Zealand children when the 8 year old data is available. This research is funded through the Proceeds of Crime fund.

The Ministry and Oranga Tamariki have also collected data on the prevalence of FASD with two DHBs through the ‘Access to Services’ trial.

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) researchers are also completing a study on the neurodevelopmental outcomes of four year old children exposed to alcohol prenatally using the GUiNZ data.

Back to top