The Whanganui District Health Board is going on the offensive in the battle against foetal alcohol syndrome (FASD).

On Thursday and Friday this week, health promotion officer Chester Penaflor will provide information at Whanganui Hospital's main entrance about this debilitating condition.

Mr Penaflor said every year up to 3000 New Zealand children are born with life-long disabilities resulting from their mothers' decision to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

He said the campaign in Whanganui was part of a worldwide promotion highlighting FASD, 43 years after researchers identified it for the first time.


Alcohol was now recognised as the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in New Zealand.

"While some people with FASD have mental retardation, most have normal intelligence but with impaired learning, memory and growth, and difficulty with impulse control and poor judgment," Mr Penaflor said.

"They are misunderstood, vulnerable to abuse, at risk of entering the criminal justice system and often without a home and job, while struggling with poverty and addiction.

"By raising awareness about what causes FASD and the consequences it can have on people's lives, we hope to encourage mothers not to drink while pregnant so more babies are healthy with the best chance at reaching their full potential in life."

Mr Penaflor said to show just how serious people were about trying to prevent FASD, at 9.09am on September 9, FASD Awareness Day will be marked with bells ringing in churches, cities and universities worldwide.

"This time and date was chosen to remind everyone of the nine months of pregnancy when the unborn child should be protected from the adverse effects of alcohol exposure," he said.

"FASD lasts a lifetime - there is no cure and it is 100 percent preventable. Because unborn children have no voice, we must speak on their behalf."

Research shows that one in five (19 per cent) of New Zealand women report drinking alcohol at some time in their pregnancy and this rate is higher for younger women (28 per cent) aged 15 to 24-years-old.