Taking Aim at Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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A number of efforts have been launched to provide assistance to tribal officials, health professionals, and educators as they struggle to reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome and to cope with its effects.

At the federal level, Representative Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the only Native American in the Congress, has introduced legislation that would authorize $153 million in federal spending over eight years to create a grants program to support tribal community-education and prevention programs.

The measure, HR 1322, would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to report annually on the status of F.A.S. and fetal alcohol effect in the Indian population.

Senator Thomas Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, has sponsored a companion measure.

Hearings have not yet been scheduled on the bills.

Also under way is an effort by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to put together a book, written and illustrated by Indians, to be used in schools to teach children about F.A.S. at a "very early age."

Patti E. Munter, the executive director of the Washington-based group, said the "grassroots" organization is also working with the Georgetown University Medical School to develop a seminar on F.A.S.

The organization, rounded 18 months ago, held its first national conference in Minneapolis last October.

The Winnebago tribe of Wisconsin, meanwhile, has announced that a percentage of the revenues from Winnebago Pharmaceuticals Inc., the first tribal enterprise of its kind in the country, would be donated to the N.O.F.A.S.

In Alaska, state officials, working in conjunction with federal, local, and tribal representatives, recently opened a residential center in Anchorage for pregnant Native Americans who want help in stopping drinking.

Officials say the Dena A Coy prematernal treatment center is the first program of its kind in the country.

Dena A Coy, which offers its services free to native Alaskans, takes its name from an Athabascan term meaning "the people's grandchildren," or future generations.

In a separate program in Alaska, the state division of public health, the federal Indian Health Service, and the federal Centers for Disease Control have embarked on a five-year study of F.A.S., the first comprehensive examination of the problem in any state.

Education departments in several states, meanwhile, are working to develop curricular materials for their schools.

At the local level, the Seattle Foundation is working to link up educators and other concerned individuals with qualified dysmorphologists, or physicians who specialize in diagnosing the physical symptoms of F.A.S.

Information on the program is available from the foundation, Washington Federal Building, Suite 510, 425 Pike St., Seattle, Wash. 98101; telephone (206) 622-2294.--E.W.

Vol. 11, Issue 18, Page 13

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