Professor Carol Bower: Director, FASD Research Australia
I have always had an interest and passion for investigating causes and effects of birth defects and then using research findings to influence and evaluate public health policy and practice to help alleviate or prevent these defects.
My early research contributed to our understanding of the role of the vitamin folate in preventing spina bifida and other neural tube defects. This led to promotion of periconceptional (before conception to early pregnancy) folic acid supplement use and mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid and then evaluation of the effectiveness of these measures in reducing the occurrence of neural tube defects.
I was jolted into thinking about FASD, another potentially preventable birth defect, when the mother of a child with FASD contacted me in the late 1990s.
She had deep concerns about the limited knowledge of health professionals and the lack of attention on FASD generally in Australia. She was right and she has continued to guide (and goad!) me as we embarked on our FASD research and research translation, with investigation of the prevalence, diagnosis, management and prevention of FASD. It is exciting (and very gratifying) to see that there are now many researchers and health and other professionals working to reduce the number of women drinking alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding, to improve clinical practice and diagnosis, and to recognise the impact of FASD on the child and their family and how we can work together to improve lives and long term outcomes.