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Mary J. O'Connor
Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus
Mark Tomlinson
Claudine Bill
Ingrid M. LeRoux
Jackie Stewart


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, screening, prenatal alcohol exposure, community health workers, South Africa



South Africa has the highest prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in the world yet many women have no access to clinic care or to physicians in their communities. The shortage of physicians trained in the diagnosis of FASD is even more severe. Thus there is a need to train community workers to assist in the delivery of health care.


This study reports on the effectiveness of training community workers to screen for a possible diagnosis of a FASD.


Community workers in Cape Town, South Africa were trained to screen for FASD in 139, 18 - month - old toddlers with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Children were assessed according to the salient characteristics of individuals with PAE using height, weight, head circumference (OFC), philtrum, and lip measurements according to criteria set forth by the Institute of Medicine. Screen - positive children were referred for diagnostic assessment to a pediatrician reliably trained in the diagnosis of FASD.


Of the screen-positive children, 93% received an FASD diagnosis suggesting that the screening procedure was highly sensitive. Diagnoses included 15% with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), 23% with Partial FAS, and 62% with Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND, provisional).


The use of community workers to screen for FASD represents a promising approach to effective diagnosis of children affected by PAE in areas lacking adequate medical resources.

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