It’s more prevalent than Down Syndrome, spina bifida or fragile X syndrome. It’s fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, and MU will soon be home to the state’s first clinic specializing in its diagnosis and intervention.
The clinic is scheduled to open in September. The project is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was obtained through the Missouri Department of Health. Its focus will stay on FAS, the condition afflicting children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy.
Stephen Braddock, associate professor of child health and genetics at MU and clinic director, will lead a team of varied scientific and medical backgrounds including pediatrics, dysmorphology (study of structural genetic defects), patient advocacy, speech pathology, genetic counseling and teratogen (fetus- or embryo-damaging agents) information.
Braddock said a team with such different specialties will allow the clinic to evaluate the different aspects of life affected by FAS, including neurobehavioral abnormalities, adaptive functions, speech and physical features.
He emphasized the frequency and preventability of FAS.
“One in every 500 babies born has FAS,” Braddock said. “It’s the nation’s No. 1 cause of mental retardation — and it’s completely preventable.”
Braddock added that an expected 150 babies born each year in Missouri have FAS.
The clinic, Braddock said, will use educational seminars, screenings and tests to develop a road map for the babies and children that the team diagnoses with FAS.
Intervention can include early diagnosis, therapy, family involvement and further physician referrals, Braddock said.
“Early identification can have better prognosis and outcomes,” he said. “FAS doesn’t mean a death sentence.”
FAS needs a plan for intervention; Braddock said it could help alleviate the $5.4 billion spent annually on medical care for FAS patients.
The Columbia clinic will be followed by others in Springfield and Cape Girardeau.