Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) joined his colleague U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) today at a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the formation of a Congressional Caucus that will focus on raising awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The two co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders were joined by other children's health organizations in also releasing a report detailing the continuing negative effects drinking by pregnant women can have on their children. The New Jersey congressman gave the following statement.
"I first want to thank everyone for attending this very important event. I would first like to thank my colleague, Congressman Jim Ramstad, who has been a real champion of this issue. I am looking forward to working with my colleague from Minnesota and all the other members of the FASD caucus to advocate for this worthy cause.
"It is our hope that through education and outreach we can achieve prevention. Accordingly, with the help of the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), Congressman Ramstad and I have established the Congressional Caucus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in order to educate and inform our colleagues on matters relevant to this disorder, and to seek out ways to mitigate the prevalence of FASD.
"Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are the leading known cause of mental retardation in the United States. Current studies estimate that approximately 40,000 newborns per year are born with FASD. Individuals who suffer from FASD are often small at birth, develop slowly, and can suffer from mental retardation or a low IQ. More often than not, those suffering from FASD have learning disabilities, show poor coordination, have problems with memory, and exhibit hyperactivity and behavioral problems.
"While FASD occurs in all sections of the general population, research and medical studies show that there is a higher rate of incidence of FASD among minority populations, especially American Indian and Alaska Native groups. Native Americans in general have always suffered from a health status that is far below the general population of the United States, and FASD is no exception.
"Various studies of American Indian populations have estimated the frequency of FASD between 7.86 and 8.97 per 1000 children. This number is more than three times the average estimate for all of North America. The rates of FASD in Native American populations vary greatly from one tribe to another. Individual tribal populations can have very high rates of FASD, while others are essentially zero. Several factors can contribute to the occurrence of FASD among American Indians, including drinking patterns, cultural influences, fertility, nutrition, and metabolic differences.
"Like most public health crises, the key to preventing the occurrence of FASD is increasing public awareness through outreach and education. This is particularly important in American Indian and other minority communities where there is often a lack of access to information and high quality healthcare. In light of this, many Tribes have taken matters into their own hands; carrying out community-based projects designed to educate children, adolescents, and expectant mothers about FASD and how to prevent it.
"Congress should be supportive of such efforts, and I'm hopeful that our new Caucus can work with the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to develop legislation that would help communities combat FASD by providing more grants for research, increase surveillance and identification programs, as well as increase public awareness and education programs about FASD.
"Once again, I would like to thank everyone for attending today's event. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I am looking forward to working with each and every one of you so that we can begin to address this important issue and put an end to FASD. Thank you."