Health Minister commits to revitalising FASD Action Plan

On Friday April 26, the Health Minister Hon Dr Shane Reti announced the release of the Aotearoa New Zealand Clinical Diagnostic Guidelines for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder at Papakura Marae in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland. 

Dr Reti, who recently met with three FASD-CAN executives to discuss FASD, also announced a renewal of the government’s priorities to address the disorder.

This focused on key priority activities which he hopes to progress while in office, including a commitment to train 30 more health professionals to diagnose FASD, a pilot support programme for whānau and caregivers, a national campaign to raise awareness and a revitalisation of the FASD Action Plan.

FASD-CAN welcomes these developments. Since the official end of the FASD Action Plan in 2019, we have called for it to be reviewed and revised, as well as for better funding and inter-agency commitment to its implementation. We also welcome the news of a national campaign to raise awareness of FASD, as we know this will be so important for our whānau in terms of both prevention and addressing stigma. And we look forward to any potential collaboration with the community-led pilot programme mentioned by the to Minister to support individuals, whānau and caregivers living with FASD.

“However, so much more needs to be done to support the needs of people with this lifelong brain damage and their families,” says FASD-CAN CEO, Stephanie James-Sadler. “FASD can impact people across a range of areas – education, substance misuses, mental health, employment, justice and suicide. Early intervention is critical if we want to reduce the risk of these outcomes.”

FASD-CAN continues to advocate for disability support for those with FASD. The commitment by this government to address priorities for FASD is a welcome step.

As we know, FASD is estimated to affect between 3 - 5% of the population but as a disability it is largely hidden. Getting a diagnosis is currently very difficult in Aotearoa, with some families resorting to private assessment costing up to $9,000 – but it can be life-changing for people with FASD if supported by early interventions and access to disability support.

(Photo above: left to right – FASD-CAN board member Gilbert Taurua, Dr Reti, FASD-CAN CEO Stephanie James-Sadler and Chair Dr Leigh Henderson.)

UPDATES: The announcement in the news 

RNZ: 'Government unveils fetal alcohol guidelines, plan for diagnosis training'

Hāpai te Hauora release: Whakakotahitanga Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Guidelines Launched

TVNZ: Government unveils fetal alcohol guidelines plan, diagnosis and training

Political Statement on Voxy: Taking Action on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – Shane Reti

Background to the Diagnostic Guidelines

During 2022, Hāpai te Hauora ran a project for Te Whatu Ora to develop Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder diagnostic guidelines for Aotearoa New Zealand. The process was grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and utilised Kaupapa Māori methodology and practice. The project identified three important areas pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis to enable support for individuals and families affected by FASD.

You can click here to watch a recording of Tania Henderson (a member of the Māori Coalition for FASD) speaking about the project at the FASD-CAN Hui in September 2023 (scroll down to Sunday, Day Two, Part Two).