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Notice to Readers Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, May 12-18, 1996

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has designated May 12-18, 1996, as Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. One of the leading causes of birth defects in the United States is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which results from in utero alcohol exposure. In the United States each year, an estimated 12,000 children are born with FAS (1). The prevalence of FAS ranges from 0.7 cases per 1000 live births for the total U.S. population to 2.7 for American Indians/Alaskan Natives (2-4).

A congressionally mandated report prepared by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicated that, although the overall prevalence of any reported alcohol use during pregnancy has declined since the mid-1980s, the proportion of women who drink heavily during pregnancy has remained constant (1). However, a recent study documented that a high proportion of women with certain characteristics (i.e., nonwhite, smoker, low income, and no prenatal care) are more likely to consume more than six drinks per week during their last pregnancy (5). The IOM report recommended the creation of a interagency task force to facilitate research directed toward 1) estimating the true prevalence of FAS and of alcohol use among pregnant and reproductive-aged women; 2) improving understanding of the risk factors for drinking heavily during pregnancy; and 3) developing a model for preventing drinking during pregnancy, which includes the participation of the woman's partner, family members, and health-care providers. CDC-sponsored prevention projects being evaluated include prenatal interventions for pregnant women who report alcohol use and reproductive-health education and counseling for women in drug- and alcohol-treatment centers.

Additional information about Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week is available from NCADD, 12 West 21 Street, New York, NY 10010; telephone (212) 206-6770. Copies of the IOM executive summary are available free of charge from the Institute of Medicine, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20418.


  1. Institute of Medicine. Fetal alcohol syndrome diagnosis, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment. Stratton K, Howe C, Battaglia S, eds. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996.

  2. CDC. Trends in fetal alcohol syndrome -- United States, 1979-1993. MMWR 1995;44:249-51.

  3. CDC. Linking multiple data sources in fetal alcohol syndrome surveillance -- Alaska. MMWR 1993;42:312-4.

  4. CDC. Use of International Classification of Diseases coding to identify fetal alcohol syndrome -- Indian Health Service facilities, 1981-1992. MMWR 1995;44:253-5,261.

  5. CDC. Sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy -- United States, 1988. MMWR 1995;44:261-4.

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