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|Journal||Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health|
Objective: To measure the knowledge, attitudes and practices of health professionals regarding fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and alcohol use during pregnancy.
Method: A postal survey of a representative random sample of health professionals was conducted in Western Australia (WA) in 2002/03. 1,143 (79%) of 1,443 eligible health professionals completed the survey (87 Aboriginal Health Workers, 286 allied health professionals, 537 community nurses, 170 general practitioners and 63 obstetricians).
Results: Of 1,143 health professionals, 12% identified all four essential diagnostic features of FAS. Most (95%) had never diagnosed FAS. Although 82% believed that making a diagnosis of FAS might improve treatment plans and 85% agreed FAS was preventable, 53% said the diagnosis might be stigmatising. Only 2% felt very prepared to deal with FAS and most wanted information for themselves and their clients. Of the 659 health professionals caring for pregnant women, only 45% routinely ask about alcohol use in pregnancy, only 25% routinely provide information on the consequences of alcohol use in pregnancy and only 13% provide advice consistent with NHMRC guidelines on alcohol consumption in pregnancy.
Conclusion: Health professionals have identified the need for educational materials for themselves and their clients.
Implications: FAS is likely to be under-ascertained in Australia due to a lack of knowledge of FAS by health professionals. Until this lack of knowledge is addressed, opportunities for diagnosis and prevention of FAS will be limited.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health abstract