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About SickKids

February 28, 2006

Researchers calculate the costs of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to Canadians to be upwards of $344 million annually

TORONTO - Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and St. Michael’s Hospital have calculated that the annual cost of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to Canadians is upwards of $344 million a year. This research is reported in the February 28, 2006 issue of the Journal of FAS International.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and is the leading cause of life-lasting developmental and cognitive disabilities among Canadian children. Its prevalence in Canada has been estimated to be one to six in 1,000 live births.

To conduct this study, 148 parents of children with FASD, aged 1 to 21 years, completed a survey related to the cost components of caring for a child with FASD such as direct costs like medical, education, social services, out-of-pocket costs; and indirect costs such as productivity losses to parents and caregivers.

“We found that the cost of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) annually to Canada for children and youth aged one to 21 years was over $344 million,” said Dr. Brenda Stade, the study’s lead author and program director of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Clinic in the Department of Pediatrics at St. Michael’s Hospital. “It is hoped that this seminal paper will lead to desperately needed resources to prevent and treat FASD.”

The average annual costs per child with FASD was $14,342. The national annual cost of FASD of children one to 21 years old, was $344,208,000. The largest single component of costs was education costs and medical costs accounting for 32.6 per cent and 30.3 per cent respectively.

Costs for children six to 15 years were higher than in all other groups reflecting the costs of specialized education, the use of health specialists such as psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, and others. The study also found that 19 per cent of total costs were paid by parents caring for their child with FASD.

“The cost of FASD is staggering, but it really does not tell the real story of misery, poor quality of life and lifelong suffering for the children and their families, which cannot be measured in dollars,” added Dr. Gideon Koren, Dr. Stade’s supervisor on this PhD project, a senior scientist and director of the Motherisk Program at SickKids, and a professor of Paediatrics, Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Medicine and Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto. “The fact that the lifetime cost of FASD is almost $1 million per case, and with 4,000 new cases every year, Canada is losing $4 billion a year. With such loss it does not make sense that more resources aren’t invested into prevention.”

By providing a detailed description of the cost-of-illness and the utilization of health services from various perspectives, this research may assist clinical and policy decision-makers to develop optimal disease management strategies and allocation of scarce health care funds. The increasing focus on screening and diagnosis of FASD demands that greater attention be paid to the delivery of care to this population.

Other researchers involved on this paper include Dr. Wendy Ungar, Dr. Bonnie Stevens and Dr. Joseph Beyene, all from SickKids.

This research was funded by St. Michael’s Hospital Department of Paediatrics, the Research Training Centre at SickKids, the Research Leadership for Better Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Senior Investigator Award to Dr. Koren, and SickKids Foundation.

SickKids Foundation is the largest non-governmental granting agency in child health in Canada. Established in 1972, the Foundation has granted over $500 million to The Hospital for Sick Children and over $65 million to researchers across the country. The mission of the Foundation is to inspire our communities to invest in health and scientific advances to improve the lives of children and their families across Canada and around the world. If you would like to make more research possible at SickKids, please make a donation.

The Hospital for Sick Children, affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada’s most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in the country. Its mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

For more information, please contact:

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