Landmark Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Study

Professor Elizabeth Elliott, AM, Consultant Paediatrician and Director of the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and Professor in Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney, was a Chief Investigator in a recent landmark health study. The Liliwan study, published last week in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, found that one in eight children, or 120 children per 1000, in remote Aboriginal communities of the Fitzroy Valley in Western Australia suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The study was initiated by Aboriginal community leaders who, in 2009, invited researchers and clinicians to partner with them to provide data they could use to advocate for people living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

The Liliwan study provides Australia’s first comprehensive data on the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in remote communities and can be used to advocate for services and prevention programs. Professor Elliott, an internationally-recognised expert on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, said the findings, which are the highest documented in the country, “confirm the urgent need for effective, national programs to prevent alcohol use in pregnancy, raise community awareness and provide treatment and support for children and families living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Australia.”

The study represents a successful collaboration between two Aboriginal organisations (Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services and Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre), both in Fitzroy Crossing, and clinicians and researchers from The George Institute for Global Health and The University of Sydney Medical School’s Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The findings will be presented to the International Conference of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Vancouver in March.

Read more on The Liliwan study here.