Dear Olivia Chow,
Did you know that FASD is the
leading cause of developmental disabilities among Canadian children? An
estimated 9 out of 1,000 babies born in Canada have FASD (Health Canada, 2012).
Early recognition and diagnosis is crucial to maximize the benefits of services
available to children with FASD. Early diagnosis of FASD can prevent secondary
effects that stem from primary disabilities such as mental health problems,
alcohol and drug abuse, school dropout and incarceration (Benz et al 2009, Chudley
et al 2005 & Watson et al 2011). The recognition and diagnosis of children
with FASD allows them access to counselling services, appropriate school
programs and specialized community services that tailor education to the needs
of children with FASD.
The under diagnosis of FASD in
Canada's Aboriginal population has been linked to a disproportionate
representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system (Bracken,
2008). Studies show that more than half of the incarcerated Aboriginal
population are diagnosed with FASD. Aboriginal children and adolescents with
undiagnosed FASD do not receive the appropriate supports to continue education,
and instead can become involved in criminal activities. Impulsivity stemming
from FASD cause individuals to make irrational decisions leading to criminal
behaviour (Nash et al, 2008).
Early diagnosis of FASD in rural
Aboriginal populations rarely occurs as a result of the isolation of First
Nation reserves and Inuit communities. Medical clinics and hospitals with
specialized teams and resources for diagnosing FASD are most often located in
cities and not easily accessible to people living in these remote areas.
However, these underserved remote areas are often in the greatest need of
diagnostic services. The intergenerational trauma endured by Aboriginal people
has resulted in a high prevalence rate of FASD and other alcohol-related issues
on Canadian reserves and Inuit communities (Bombay et al, 2009). Thus, it is
imperative that there is a concentrated effort to increase diagnostic services
for these remote regions. The FASD telehealth program addresses this issue by
broadcasting babies and children on a screen to medical clinics in cities,
where a qualified team assesses their features and provides an FASD diagnosis. The
FASD telehealth program has been very successful resulting in more cases of
early diagnosis of FASD for babies and children in remote regions.
As senior year nursing students
at the University of Toronto interested in Aboriginal community health, we are
concerned about the high rates of undiagnosed FASD on First Nations reserves
and remote Inuit regions. The FASD telehealth program
offers a unique, cost-effective and convenient solution. We are asking for your
consideration in bringing forth this issue in the House of Commons to persuade
the Federal Government to allocate more funds to the First Nations and Inuit
Health Branch (FNIHB). FNIHB can use these funds specifically for initiating
more FASD telehealth programs on reserves and remote Inuit regions across
Canada. Every child deserves the right to access the appropriate health care
treatment in a timely manner and the FASD telehealth program is a step in the
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and
consider the issues presented.
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