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1.  Recommendations from a consensus development workshop on the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:156.
Background
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are underdiagnosed in Australia, and health professionals have endorsed the need for national guidelines for diagnosis. The aim of this study was to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
Methods
A panel of 13 health professionals, researchers, and consumer and community representatives with relevant expertise attended a 2-day consensus development workshop to review evidence on the screening and diagnosis of FASD obtained from a systematic literature review, a national survey of health professionals and community group discussions. The nominal group technique and facilitated discussion were used to review the evidence on screening and diagnosis, and to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
Results
The use of population-based screening for FASD was not recommended. However, there was consensus support for the development of standard criteria for referral for specialist diagnostic assessment. Participants developed consensus recommendations for diagnostic categories, criteria and assessment methods, based on the adaption of elements from both the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code and the Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis. Panel members also recommended the development of resources to: facilitate consistency in referral and diagnostic practices, including comprehensive clinical guidelines and assessment instruments; and to support individuals undergoing assessment and their parents or carers.
Conclusions
These consensus recommendations provide a foundation for the development of guidelines and other resources to promote consistency in the diagnosis of FASD in Australia. Guidelines for diagnosis will require review and evaluation in the Australian context prior to national implementation as well as periodic review to incorporate new knowledge.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-156
PMCID: PMC3849849  PMID: 24083778
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Diagnosis; Consensus
2.  A modified Delphi study of screening for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:13.
Background
There is little reliable information on the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia and no coordinated national approach to facilitate case detection. The aim of this study was to identify health professionals’ perceptions about screening for FASD in Australia.
Method
A modified Delphi process was used to assess perceptions of the need for, and the process of, screening for FASD in Australia. We recruited a panel of 130 Australian health professionals with experience or expertise in FASD screening or diagnosis. A systematic review of the literature was used to develop Likert statements on screening coverage, components and assessment methods which were administered using an online survey over two survey rounds.
Results
Of the panel members surveyed, 95 (73%) responded to the questions on screening in the first survey round and, of these, 81 (85%) responded to the second round. Following two rounds there was consensus agreement on the need for targeted screening at birth (76%) and in childhood (84%). Participants did not reach consensus agreement on the need for universal screening at birth (55%) or in childhood (40%). Support for targeted screening was linked to perceived constraints on service provision and the need to examine the performance, costs and benefits of screening.
For targeted screening of high risk groups, we found highest agreement for siblings of known cases of FASD (96%) and children of mothers attending alcohol treatment services (93%). Participants agreed that screening for FASD primarily requires assessment of prenatal alcohol exposure at birth (86%) and in childhood (88%), and that a checklist is needed to identify the components of screening and criteria for referral at birth (84%) and in childhood (90%).
Conclusions
There is an agreed need for targeted but not universal screening for FASD in Australia, and sufficient consensus among health professionals to warrant development and evaluation of standardised methods for targeted screening and referral in the Australian context. Participants emphasised the need for locally-appropriate, evidence-based approaches to facilitate case detection, and the importance of ensuring that screening and referral programs are supported by adequate diagnostic and management capacity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-13
PMCID: PMC3583688  PMID: 23347677
3.  Health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:69.
Background
Despite the availability of five guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), there is no national endorsement for their use in diagnosis in Australia. In this study we aimed to describe health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia and identify implications for the development of national guidelines.
Methods
We surveyed 130 Australian and 9 international health professionals with expertise or involvement in the screening or diagnosis of FASD. An online questionnaire was used to evaluate participants’ familiarity with and use of five existing diagnostic guidelines for FASD, and to assess their perceptions about the adoption of these guidelines in Australia.
Results
Of the 139 participants surveyed, 84 Australian and 8 international health professionals (66.2%) responded to the questions on existing diagnostic guidelines. Participants most frequently reported using the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code (27.2%) and the Canadian guidelines (18.5%) for diagnosis. These two guidelines were also most frequently recommended for adoption in Australia: 32.5% of the 40 participants who were familiar with the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia, and 30.8% of the 26 participants who were familiar with the Canadian guidelines recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia. However, for the majority of guidelines examined, most participants were unsure whether they should be adopted in Australia. The adoption of existing guidelines in Australia was perceived to be limited by: their lack of evidence base, including the appropriateness of established reference standards for the Australian population; their complexity; the need for training and support to use the guidelines; and the lack of an interdisciplinary and interagency model to support service delivery in Australia.
Conclusions
Participants indicated some support for the adoption of the University of Washington or Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis; however, concerns were raised about the adoption of these diagnostic guidelines in their current form. Australian diagnostic guidelines will require evaluation to establish their validity in the Australian context, and a comprehensive implementation model is needed to facilitate improved diagnostic capacity in Australia.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-69
PMCID: PMC3416706  PMID: 22697051
4.  Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: development of consensus referral criteria for specialist diagnostic assessment in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:178.
Background
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is known to be under-recognised in Australia. The use of standard methods to identify when to refer individuals who may have FASD for specialist assessment could help improve the identification of this disorder. The purpose of this study was to develop referral criteria for use in Australia.
Method
An online survey about FASD screening and diagnosis in Australia, which included 23 statements describing criteria for referral for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and FASD based on published recommendations for referral in North America, was sent to 139 health professionals who had expertise or involvement in FASD screening or diagnosis. Survey findings and published criteria for referral were subsequently reviewed by a panel of 14 investigators at a consensus development workshop where criteria for referral were developed.
Results
Among the 139 health professionals who were sent the survey, 103 (74%) responded, and 90 (65%) responded to the statements on criteria for referral. Over 80% of respondents agreed that referral for specialist evaluation should occur when there is evidence of significant prenatal alcohol exposure, defined as 7 or more standard drinks per week and at least 3 standard drinks on any one day, and more than 70% agreed with 13 of the 16 statements that described criteria for referral other than prenatal alcohol exposure. Workshop participants recommended five independent criteria for referral: confirmed significant prenatal alcohol exposure; microcephaly and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 2 or more significant central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 3 characteristic FAS facial anomalies; and 1 characteristic FAS facial anomaly, growth deficit and 1 or more CNS abnormalities.
Conclusion
Referral criteria recommended for use in Australia are similar to those recommended in North America. There is a need to develop resources to raise awareness of these criteria among health professionals and evaluate their feasibility, acceptability and capacity to improve the identification of FASD in Australia.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-178
PMCID: PMC4123492  PMID: 25005425
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Referral; Consensus
5.  Invited commentary on Australian fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnostic guidelines 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:85.
The publication of Australian fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) diagnostic guidelines marks an important step forward in Australia’s efforts to prevent FASD. But do we need yet another set of FASD guidelines? At the 5th International FASD Conference, the ever growing number of FASD diagnostic guidelines was identified as a core area of concern by leaders in FASD worldwide. All agreed we need to strive to adopt a single set of guidelines. It is essential that FASD diagnosis advance to incorporate new knowledge and technology. But to date, the field of FASD has seen multiple sets of guidelines published that do not address the important question-How is the performance of these new guidelines superior to the performance of existing guidelines to warrant/justify their introduction into the medical literature?
The Australian guidelines include FAS, PFAS and Neurodevelopmental Disorder-Alcohol Exposed (ND-AE). This latter group includes individuals with severe CNS abnormalities without the physical features of FAS. This is the group the 4-Digit-Code calls Static-Encephalopathy-Alcohol-Exposed (SE-AE). The criteria for FAS, PFAS, and ND-AE (or what the 4-Digit-Code calls SE-AE) are identical between the Australian and 4-Digit-Code guidelines with the exception of one very small, but very consequential difference in facial criteria for PFAS. The 4-Digit-Code requires a Rank 3 FAS facial phenotype for PFAS (J Popul Ther Clin Pharmacol20(3):e416–e467, 2013); the Australian guidelines relax the criteria to include the Rank 2 FAS facial phenotype. This relaxation of the criteria renders the facial phenotype NOT specific to prenatal alcohol exposure as confirmed in published empirical studies. If the facial phenotype is not specific to (caused only by) prenatal alcohol exposure one can no longer validly call the outcome PFAS. When one makes a diagnosis of FAS (full or partial), one is stating explicitly that the individual has a syndrome caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. One is also stating explicitly that the biological mother drank alcohol during pregnancy and, as a result, harmed her child. These are bold conclusions to draw and are not without medical, ethical, and even legal consequences. So the question remains-Why go against the published empirical evidence and relax the PFAS facial criteria into the normal range?
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-85
PMCID: PMC3994222  PMID: 24685275
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; FASD 4-digit diagnostic code
6.  A Practical Clinical Approach to Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Clarification of the 1996 Institute of Medicine Criteria 
Pediatrics  2005;115(1):39-47.
Background. The adverse effects of alcohol on the developing human represent a spectrum of structural anomalies and behavioral and neurocognitive disabilities, most accurately termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The first descriptions in the modern medical literature of a distinctly recognizable pattern of malformations associated with maternal alcohol abuse were reported in 1968 and 1973. Since that time, substantial progress has been made in developing specific criteria for defining and diagnosing this condition. Two sets of diagnostic criteria are now used most widely for evaluation of children with potential diagnoses in the FASD continuum, ie, the 1996 Institute of Medicine (IOM) criteria and the Washington criteria. Although both approaches have improved the clinical delineation of FASD, both suffer from significant drawbacks in their practical application in pediatric practice.
Objective. The purpose of this report is to present specific clarifications of the 1996 IOM criteria for the diagnosis of FASD, to facilitate their practical application in clinical pediatric practice.
Methods. A large cohort of children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol were identified, through active case-ascertainment methods, in 6 Native American communities in the United States and 1 community in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The children and their families underwent standardized multidisciplinary evaluations, including a dysmorphology examination, developmental and neuropsychologic testing, and a structured maternal interview, which gathered data about prenatal drinking practices and other demographic and family information. Data for these subjects were analyzed, and revisions and clarifications of the existing IOM FASD diagnostic categories were formulated on the basis of the results.
Results. The revised IOM method defined accurately and completely the spectrum of disabilities among the children in our study. On the basis of this experience, we propose specific diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome and partial fetal alcohol syndrome. We also define alcohol-related birth defects and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder from a practical standpoint.
Conclusions. The 1996 IOM criteria remain the most appropriate diagnostic approach for children prenatally exposed to alcohol. The proposed revisions presented here make these criteria applicable in clinical pediatric practice. Pediatrics 2005;115:39–47; fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, diagnostic criteria, mental retardation, developmental disabilities.
doi:10.1542/peds.2004-0259
PMCID: PMC1380311  PMID: 15629980
7.  The Lililwan Project: study protocol for a population-based active case ascertainment study of the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000968.
Introduction
Anecdotal reports suggest that high-risk drinking in pregnancy is common in some remote Australian communities. Alcohol is teratogenic and may cause a range of lifelong conditions termed ‘fetal alcohol spectrum disorders’ (FASD). Australia has few diagnostic services for FASD, and prevalence of these neurodevelopmental disorders remains unknown. In 2009, Aboriginal leaders in the remote Fitzroy Valley in North Western Australia identified FASD as a community priority and initiated the Lililwani Project in partnership with leading research organisations. This project will establish the prevalence of FASD and other health and developmental problems in school-aged children residing in the Fitzroy Valley, providing data to inform FASD prevention and management.
Methods and analysis
This is a population-based active case ascertainment study of all children born in 2002 and 2003 and residing in the Fitzroy Valley. Participants will be identified from the Fitzroy Valley Population Project and Communicare databases. Parents/carers will be interviewed using a standardised diagnostic questionnaire modified for local language and cultural requirements to determine the demographics, antenatal exposures, birth outcomes, education and psychosocial status of each child. A comprehensive interdisciplinary health and neurodevelopmental assessment will be performed using tests and operational definitions adapted for the local context. Internationally recognised diagnostic criteria will be applied to determine FASD prevalence. Relationships between pregnancy exposures and early life trauma, neurodevelopmental, health and education outcomes will be evaluated using regression analysis. Results will be reported according to STROBE guidelines for observational studies.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethics approval has been granted by the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee, the Western Australian Aboriginal Health Information and Ethics Committee, the Western Australian Country Health Service Board Research Ethics Committee and the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Planning Forum Research Sub-committee. Results will be disseminated widely through peer-reviewed manuscripts, reports, conference presentations and the media.
Article summary
Article focus
To establish the need for prevalence data on FASD in remote Australia and for improved awareness and diagnosis of FASD.
To describe the protocol used in Australia's first population-based study of FASD prevalence using active case ascertainment in remote Aboriginal communities.
To demonstrate a process of community consultation and clinical research that respects the priorities, language and culture of Aboriginal communities.
Key messages
Accurate prevalence data on FASD and other health and developmental outcomes will inform prevention, service provision and policy in child health, education and justice.
This research will provide immediate and direct benefits to participants and the broader community, including a feasible and transferable model of FASD diagnosis and a model for culturally responsive research with Aboriginal communities.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study was a response to a local community initiative and followed extensive community consultation.
The population-based active method of case ascertainment will provide the most accurate prevalence data for diagnoses on the entire FASD spectrum and other health and developmental outcomes.
Standardised and locally developed clinical assessments whose interpretation is less biased by culture and language have been chosen carefully with cross-cultural considerations in mind and are considered valid for the purpose of the study.
There are no normative data for Aboriginal children for the assessments used in the study.
Study findings may not generalise to all children born in the Fitzroy Valley following the introduction of community-led alcohol restrictions in 2007, after which time FASD prevalence may have decreased.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000968
PMCID: PMC3346942  PMID: 22556161
8.  APPROACHING THE PREVALENCE OF THE FULL SPECTRUM OF FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS IN A SOUTH AFRICAN POPULATION-BASED STUDY 
BACKGROUND
The prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) were determined in this fourth study of first grade children in a South African community.
METHODS
Active case ascertainment methods were employed among 747 first grade pupils. The detailed characteristics of children within the continuum of FASD are contrasted with randomly-selected, normal controls on: 1. physical growth and dysmorphology; 2. cognitive/behavioral characteristics; and 3. maternal risk factors.
RESULTS
The rates of specific diagnoses within the FASD spectrum continue to be among the highest reported in any community in the world. The prevalence (per 1,000) is: FAS - 59.3 to 91.0; PFAS – 45.3 to 69.6; and ARND – 30.5 to 46.8. The overall rate of FASD is therefore 136.1 to 208.8 per 1,000 (or 13.6 to 20.9%). Clinical profiles of the physical and cognitive/behavioral traits of children with a specific FASD diagnosis and controls are provided for understanding the full spectrum of FASD in a community. The spectral effect is evident in the characteristics of the diagnostic groups and summarized by the total (mean) dysmorphology scores of the children: FAS = 18.9; PFAS = 14.3; ARND = 12.2; normal controls, alcohol exposed = 8.2; and unexposed = 7.1. Documented drinking during pregnancy is significantly correlated with verbal (r = -.253) and non-verbal ability (r = -.265), negative behaviors (r = .203) and total dysmorphology score (r = .431). Other measures of drinking during pregnancy are significantly associated with FASD, including binge drinking as low as three drinks per episode on two days of the week.
CONCLUSIONS
High rates of specific diagnoses within FASD were well documented in this new cohort of children. FASD persists in this community. The data reflect an increased ability to provide accurate and discriminating diagnoses throughout the continuum of FASD.
doi:10.1111/acer.12033
PMCID: PMC3610844  PMID: 23241076
fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; epidemiology; prevalence; diagnosis; South Africa; alcohol abuse; cognition; maternal drinking
9.  Development of a reliable questionnaire to assist in the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:33.
Background
A battery of clinical assessments was used in the Lililwan* Project, Australia’s first population-based Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevalence study, conducted in the remote Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia. One objective was to develop and assess test-retest reliability of an acceptable questionnaire for collecting health information in remote Aboriginal communities feasible for use in the Lililwan Project.
Methods
A questionnaire was developed by paediatricians to assist in diagnosis of FASD. Content was based on a literature review of FASD diagnostic criteria, existing questionnaires and risk factors for FASD and birth defects. Aboriginal community members, including qualified Aboriginal language interpreters, adapted the questionnaire to ensure language and cultural components were appropriate for use in the Fitzroy Valley. Locally developed pictorial aids were used for gathering accurate information on alcohol use. Aboriginal ‘community navigators’ assisted researchers to translate the questions into Kimberley Kriol or local Aboriginal languages depending on participant preference.
A subset of 14 questions was assessed for test-retest reliability in 30 parents/carers of children in the Lililwan Project cohort, who were interviewed by one rater using the entire questionnaire, then by a second rater who repeated 14 critical questions at least 6 hours later.
Results
The full questionnaire contained 112 items and took 50 minutes to administer. For a subset of 14 items from the full questionnaire percent exact agreement between raters ranged from 59-100%, and was below 70% for only 1 question. Test-retest reliability was excellent (Kappa 0.81-1.00) for 5 items, substantial (Kappa 0.61-0.80) for 5 items, and moderate, fair or slight (Kappa ≤0.60) for the remaining 4 items tested. Test-retest reliability for questions relating to alcohol use in pregnancy was excellent. When questions had moderate, fair or slight agreement, information was obtained from alternate sources e.g. medical records. Qualitative feedback from parents/carers confirmed acceptability of the questionnaire.
Conclusions
This questionnaire had acceptable test-retest reliability and could be used to collect demographic, socio-cultural and biomedical information relevant to the diagnosis of FASD in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia and elsewhere. Community input is crucial when developing and administering questionnaires for use in cross-cultural contexts.
*Lililwan is a Kimberley Kriol word meaning ‘all the little ones’. Kimberley Kriol is the main language spoken by Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Valley.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-33
PMCID: PMC3680181  PMID: 23496974
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Indigenous; Questionnaire development; Diagnosis; Reliability testing; Reproducibility of results; Test-retest; Percent exact agreement
10.  Expanding Disease Definitions in Guidelines and Expert Panel Ties to Industry: A Cross-sectional Study of Common Conditions in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001500.
Background
Financial ties between health professionals and industry may unduly influence professional judgments and some researchers have suggested that widening disease definitions may be one driver of over-diagnosis, bringing potentially unnecessary labeling and harm. We aimed to identify guidelines in which disease definitions were changed, to assess whether any proposed changes would increase the numbers of individuals considered to have the disease, whether potential harms of expanding disease definitions were investigated, and the extent of members' industry ties.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a cross-sectional study of the most recent publication between 2000 and 2013 from national and international guideline panels making decisions about definitions or diagnostic criteria for common conditions in the United States. We assessed whether proposed changes widened or narrowed disease definitions, rationales offered, mention of potential harms of those changes, and the nature and extent of disclosed ties between members and pharmaceutical or device companies.
Of 16 publications on 14 common conditions, ten proposed changes widening and one narrowing definitions. For five, impact was unclear. Widening fell into three categories: creating “pre-disease”; lowering diagnostic thresholds; and proposing earlier or different diagnostic methods. Rationales included standardising diagnostic criteria and new evidence about risks for people previously considered to not have the disease. No publication included rigorous assessment of potential harms of proposed changes.
Among 14 panels with disclosures, the average proportion of members with industry ties was 75%. Twelve were chaired by people with ties. For members with ties, the median number of companies to which they had ties was seven. Companies with ties to the highest proportions of members were active in the relevant therapeutic area. Limitations arise from reliance on only disclosed ties, and exclusion of conditions too broad to enable analysis of single panel publications.
Conclusions
For the common conditions studied, a majority of panels proposed changes to disease definitions that increased the number of individuals considered to have the disease, none reported rigorous assessment of potential harms of that widening, and most had a majority of members disclosing financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health professionals generally base their diagnosis of physical and mental disorders among their patients on disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds that are drawn up by expert panels and published as statements or as part of clinical practice guidelines. These disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds are reviewed and updated in response to changes in disease detection methods, treatments, medical knowledge, and, in the case of mental illness, changes in cultural norms. Sometimes, the review process widens disease definitions and lowers diagnostic thresholds. Such changes can be beneficial. For example, they might ensure that life-threatening conditions are diagnosed early when they are still treatable. But the widening of disease definitions can also lead to over-diagnosis—the diagnosis of a condition in a healthy individual that will never cause any symptoms and won't lead to an early death. Over-diagnosis can unnecessarily label people as ill, harm healthy individuals by exposing them to treatments they do not need, and waste resources that could be used to treat or prevent “genuine” illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, evidence for widespread financial and non-financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the health professionals involved in writing clinical practice guidelines has increased, and concern that these links may influence professional judgments has grown. As a result, a 2011 report from the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that, whenever possible, guideline developers should not have conflicts of interest, that a minority of the panel members involved in guideline development should have conflicts of interest, and that the chairs of these panels should be free of conflicts. Much less is known, however, about the ties between industry and the health professionals involved in reviewing disease definitions and whether these ties might in some way contribute to over-diagnosis. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that takes a snapshot of a situation at a single time point), the researchers identify panels that have recently made decisions about definitions or diagnostic thresholds for conditions that are common in the US and describe the industry ties among the panel members and the changes in disease definitions proposed by the panels.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 16 publications in which expert panels proposed changes to the disease definitions and diagnostic criteria for 14 conditions that are common in the US such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and Alzheimer disease. The proposed changes widened the disease definition for ten diseases, narrowed it for one disease, and had an unclear impact for five diseases. Reasons included in the publications for changing disease definitions included new evidence of risk for people previously considered normal (pre-hypertension) and the emergence of new biomarkers, tests, or treatments (Alzheimer disease). Only six of the panels mentioned possible harms of the proposed changes and none appeared to rigorously assess the downsides of expanding definitions. Of the 15 panels involved in the publications (one panel produced two publications), 12 included members who disclosed financial ties to multiple companies. Notably, the commonest industrial ties among these panels were to companies marketing drugs for the disease being considered by that panel. On average, 75% of panel members disclosed industry ties (range 0% to 100%) to a median of seven companies each. Moreover, similar proportions of panel members disclosed industry ties in publications released before and after the 2011 IOM report.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, for the conditions studied, most panels considering disease definitions and diagnostic criteria proposed changes that widened disease definitions and that financial ties with pharmaceutical companies with direct interests in the therapeutic area covered by the panel were common among panel members. Because this study does not include a comparison group, these findings do not establish a causal link between industry ties and proposals to change disease definitions. Moreover, because the study concentrates on a subset of common diseases in the US setting, the generalizability of these findings is limited. Despite these and other study limitations, these findings provide new information about the ties between industry and influential medical professionals and raise questions about the current processes of disease definition. Future research, the researchers suggest, should investigate how disease definitions change over time, how much money panel members receive from industry, and how panel proposals affect the potential market of sponsors. Finally it should aim to design new processes for reviewing disease definitions that are free from potential conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001500.
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Knüppel et al. assesses the representation of ethical issues in general clinical practice guidelines on dementia care
Wikipedia has a page on medical diagnosis (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
An article on over-diagnosis by two of the study authors is available; an international conference on preventing over-diagnosis will take place this September
The 2011 US Institute of Medicine report Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust is available
A PLOS Medicine Essay by Lisa Cosgrove and Sheldon Krimsky discusses the financial ties with industry of panel members involved in the preparation of the latest revision of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001500
PMCID: PMC3742441  PMID: 23966841
11.  Screening for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders by Nonmedical Community Workers 
Background
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.
Objectives
This study reports on the effectiveness of training community workers to screen for a possible diagnosis of a FASD.
Methods
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.
Results
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).
Conclusion
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.
PMCID: PMC4526235  PMID: 25658901
Fetal Alcohol Sprectrum Disorder; Screening; Prenatal Alcohol Exposure; Community Health Workers; South Africa
12.  Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Canadian guidelines for diagnosis 
THE DIAGNOSIS OF FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDER (FASD) is complex and guidelines are warranted. A subcommittee of the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Advisory Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder reviewed, analysed and integrated current approaches to diagnosis to reach agreement on a standard in Canada. The purpose of this paper is to review and clarify the use of current diagnostic systems and make recommendations on their application for diagnosis of FASD-related disabilities in people of all ages. The guidelines are based on widespread consultation of expert practitioners and partners in the field. The guidelines have been organized into 7 categories: screening and referral; the physical examination and differential diagnosis; the neurobehavioural assessment; and treatment and follow-up; maternal alcohol history in pregnancy; diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial FAS and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder; and harmonization of Institute of Medicine and 4-Digit Diagnostic Code approaches. The diagnosis requires a comprehensive history and physical and neurobehavioural assessments; a multidisciplinary approach is necessary. These are the first Canadian guidelines for the diagnosis of FAS and its related disabilities, developed by broad-based consultation among experts in diagnosis.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.1040302
PMCID: PMC557121  PMID: 15738468
13.  Cost of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis in Canada 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60434.
Background
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is underdiagnosed in Canada. The diagnosis of FASD is not simple and currently, the recommendation is that a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the individual be done. The purpose of this study was to estimate the annual cost of FASD diagnosis on Canadian society.
Methods
The diagnostic process breakdown was based on recommendations from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Canadian Guidelines for Diagnosis. The per person cost of diagnosis was calculated based on the number of hours (estimated based on expert opinion) required by each specialist involved in the diagnostic process. The average rate per hour for each respective specialist was estimated based on hourly costs across Canada. Based on the existing clinical capacity of all FASD multidisciplinary clinics in Canada, obtained from the 2005 and 2011 surveys conducted by the Canada Northwest FASD Research Network, the number of FASD cases diagnosed per year in Canada was estimated. The per person cost of FASD diagnosis was then applied to the number of cases diagnosed per year in Canada in order to calculated the overall annual cost.
Results
Using the most conservative approach, it was estimated that an FASD evaluation requires 32 to 47 hours for one individual to be screened, referred, admitted, and diagnosed with an FASD diagnosis, which results in a total cost of $3,110 to $4,570 per person. The total cost of FASD diagnostic services in Canada ranges from $3.6 to $5.2 million (lower estimate), up to $5.0 to $7.3 million (upper estimate) per year.
Discussion
As a result of using the most conservative approach, the cost of FASD diagnostic services presented in the current study is most likely underestimated. The reasons for this likelihood and the limitations of the study are discussed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060434
PMCID: PMC3617033  PMID: 23593216
14.  International survey of diagnostic services for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:12.
Background
Early diagnosis and intervention for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) reduces the risk of developing a range of secondary social, emotional and behavioural problems and provides an opportunity for prevention of further alcohol exposed pregnancies. The objective of this study was to describe specialist clinical service provision for the diagnosis and assessment of children exposed to alcohol in pregnancy.
Methods
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnostic clinics were identified through literature and internet searches. Clinics were sent a questionnaire asking for information on the clinic population, clinic staff, assessment process and other services provided.
Results
Questionnaires were completed for 34 clinics: 29 were in North America, 2 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1 in South America. No clinics were identified in Asia or Australasia. There was a variety of funding sources, services offered, clinic populations, staff and methods of assessment. Thirty-three clinics had a multi-disciplinary team. In 32 clinics, at least one member of the team had specialist training in assessment of FASD. Neurobehavioural assessment was completed in 32 clinics. Eleven clinics used more than one set of diagnostic criteria or an adaptation of published criteria.
Conclusion
Diagnostic services are concentrated in North America. Most responding clinics are using a multidisciplinary approach with neurobehavioural assessment as recommended in published guidelines. Agreement on diagnostic criteria would enable comparison of clinical and research data, and enhance FASD research particularly for intervention trials.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-8-12
PMCID: PMC2377245  PMID: 18412975
15.  Comparison of spatial working memory in children with prenatal alcohol exposure and those diagnosed with ADHD; A functional magnetic resonance imaging study 
Background
Alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) falls under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), but individuals do not demonstrate the facial characteristics associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), making diagnosis difficult. While attentional problems in ARND are similar to those found in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the underlying impairment in attention pathways may be different.
Methods
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of a working memory (1-back) task of 63 children, 10 to 14 years old, diagnosed with ARND and ADHD, as well as typically developing (TD) controls, was conducted at 3 T. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data were also acquired.
Results
Activations were observed in posterior parietal and occipital regions in the TD group and in dorsolateral prefrontal and posterior parietal regions in the ARND group, whereas the ADHD group activated only dorsolateral prefrontal regions, during the working memory component of the task (1-back minus 0-back contrast). The increases in frontal and parietal activity were significantly greater in the ARND group compared to the other groups. This increased activity was associated with reduced accuracy and increased response time variability, suggesting that ARND subjects exert greater effort to manage short-term memory load. Significantly greater intra-subject variability, demonstrated by fMRI region-of-interest analysis, in the ADHD and ARND groups compared to the TD group suggests that moment-to-moment lapses in attention contributed to their poorer task performance. Differences in functional activity in ARND subjects with and without a diagnosis of ADHD resulted primarily from reduced activation by the ARND/ADHD + group during the 0-back task. In contrast, children with ADHD alone clearly showed reduced activations during the 1-back task. DTI analysis revealed that the TD group had significantly higher total tract volume and number of fibers than the ARND group. These measures were negatively correlated with errors on the 1-back task, suggesting a link between white matter integrity and task performance.
Conclusions
fMRI activations suggest that the similar behavior of children with ARND and ADHD on a spatial working memory task is the result of different cognitive events. The nature of ADHD in children with ARND appears to differ from that of children with ADHD alone.
doi:10.1186/1866-1955-4-12
PMCID: PMC3436669  PMID: 22958510
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); Alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND); Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Spatial working memory; White matter; Gray matter; Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Region of interest (ROI)
16.  Visual search for feature conjunctions: an fMRI study comparing alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) to ADHD 
Background
Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) falls under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Diagnosis of ARND is difficult because individuals do not demonstrate the characteristic facial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). While attentional problems in ARND are similar to those found in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the underlying impairment in attention pathways may be different.
Methods
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was conducted at 3 T. Sixty-three children aged 10 to 14 years diagnosed with ARND, ADHD, and typically developing (TD) controls performed a single-feature and a feature-conjunction visual search task.
Results
Dorsal and ventral attention pathways were activated during both attention tasks in all groups. Significantly greater activation was observed in ARND subjects during a single-feature search as compared to TD and ADHD groups, suggesting ARND subjects require greater neural recruitment to perform this simple task. ARND subjects appear unable to effectively use the very efficient automatic perceptual ‘pop-out’ mechanism employed by TD and ADHD groups during presentation of the disjunction array. By comparison, activation was lower in ARND compared to TD and ADHD subjects during the more difficult conjunction search task as compared to the single-feature search. Analysis of DTI data using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) showed areas of significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) and higher mean diffusivity (MD) in the right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) in ARND compared to TD subjects. Damage to the white matter of the ILF may compromise the ventral attention pathway and may require subjects to use the dorsal attention pathway, which is associated with effortful top-down processing, for tasks that should be automatic. Decreased functional activity in the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) of ARND subjects may be due to a reduction in the white matter tract’s ability to efficiently convey information critical to performance of the attention tasks.
Conclusions
Limited activation patterns in ARND suggest problems in information processing along the ventral frontoparietal attention pathway. Poor integrity of the ILF, which connects the functional components of the ventral attention network, in ARND subjects may contribute to the attention deficits characteristic of the disorder.
doi:10.1186/s11689-015-9106-9
PMCID: PMC4351830  PMID: 25750685
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD); Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND); Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Attention; White matter; Gray matter; Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF); Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS)
17.  Involving consumers and the community in the development of a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
Background
Australia’s commitment to consumer and community participation in health and medical research has grown over the past decade. Participatory research models of engagement are the most empowering for consumers.
Methods
As part of a project to develop a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia (FASD Project), the Australian FASD Collaboration (Collaboration), including a consumer advocate and two consumer representatives, was established. On completion of the FASD Project an on-line survey of Collaboration members was conducted to assess their views on consumer involvement. Women in the community were also invited to participate in Community Conversations to discuss real life situations regarding communications with health professionals about alcohol and pregnancy. Community Conversation feedback was analysed qualitatively and attendees were surveyed about their views of the Community Conversation process.
Results
The on-line survey was completed by 12 members of the Collaboration (71%). Consumer and community participation was considered important and essential, worked well, and was integral to the success of the project. The 32 women attending the Community Conversations generated 500 statements that made reference to prevention, how information and messages are delivered, and appropriate support for women. Nearly all the attendees at the Community Conversations (93%) believed that they had an opportunity to put forward their ideas and 96% viewed the Community Conversations as a positive experience.
Conclusions
The successful involvement of consumers and the community in the FASD Project can be attributed to active consumer and community participation, which included continued involvement throughout the project, funding of participation activities, and an understanding of the various contributions by the Collaboration members.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-26
PMCID: PMC3733745  PMID: 23898969
Consumer participation; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Research
18.  Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Maternal Characteristics in a Sample of Schoolchildren from a Rural Province of Croatia 
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a congenital syndrome caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and is entirely preventable by abstinence from alcohol drinking during this time. Little is known about the prevalence of FAS and maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Western countries. We present the results of FAS/partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS) prevalence study and maternal characteristics in a sample of schoolchildren from a rural province of Croatia. This study involved seven elementary schools with 1,110 enrolled children attending 1st to 4th grade and their mothers. We used an active case ascertainment method with passive parental consent and Clarified IOM criteria. The investigation protocol involved maternal data collection and clinical examination of children. Out of 1,110 mothers, 917 (82.6%) answered the questionnaire. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy was admitted by 11.5%, regular drinking by 4.0% and binge drinking by 1.4% of questioned mothers. Clinical examination involved 824 (74.2%) schoolchildren and disclosed 14 (1.7%) with clinical signs of FAS and 41 (5.0%) of PFAS. The observed FAS prevalence, based on 74.2% participation rate, was 16.9, PFAS 49.7 and combined prevalence was 66.7/1,000 examined schoolchildren. This is the first FAS prevalence study based on active ascertainment among schoolchildren and pregnancy alcohol drinking analysis performed in a rural community of Croatia and Europe. High prevalence of FAS/PFAS and pregnancy alcohol consumption observed in this study revealed that FAS is serious health problem in rural regions as well as a need to develop future studies and preventive measures for pregnancy alcohol drinking and FASD.
doi:10.3390/ijerph10041547
PMCID: PMC3709333  PMID: 23591786
FAS; prevalence; schoolchildren; rural; Croatia
19.  Study protocol for screening and diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) among young people sentenced to detention in Western Australia 
BMJ Open  2016;6(6):e012184.
Introduction
Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause lifelong disability, including physical, cognitive and behavioural deficits, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Among individuals with FASD, engagement with justice services is common. Little is known about the prevalence of FASD among young people engaged with the Australian justice system. This study aims to establish FASD prevalence among sentenced young people in detention in Western Australia (WA), and use the findings to develop a screening tool for use among young people entering detention. Translation of these results will guide the management and support of young people in detention and will have significant implications on the lives of young people with FASD and the future of Australian youth justice services.
Methods and analysis
Any sentenced young person in WA aged 10–17 years 11 months is eligible to participate. Young people are assessed for FASD by a multidisciplinary team. Standardised assessment tools refined for the Australian context are used, acknowledging the language and social complexities involved. Australian diagnostic guidelines for FASD will be applied. Information is obtained from young people, responsible adults, teachers and custodial officers. Individualised results and management plans for each young person are communicated to the young person and responsible adult. Prevalence of FASD will be reported and multivariate methods used to identify variables most predictive of FASD and to optimise the predictive value of screening.
Ethics and dissemination
Approvals have been granted by the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee, University of WA Human Research Ethics Committee, Department of Corrective Services, and Department for Child Protection and Family Support. Anonymised findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed manuscripts, presentations and the media. Extensive consultation with stakeholders (including government agencies, detention centre staff, community service providers, the young people and their families or carers) will be ongoing until findings are disseminated and translated.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012184
PMCID: PMC4932283  PMID: 27334884
20.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Adults
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Adults
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
Children
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Conclusions
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
21.  Magnetic resonance imaging outcomes from a comprehensive magnetic resonance study of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders 
Background
Magnetic resonance (MR) technology offers non-invasive methods for in vivo assessment of neuroabnormalities.
Methods
A comprehensive neuropsychological/psychiatric battery, coupled with MR imaging, (MRI), MR spectroscopy (MRS), and functional MRI (fMRI) assessments, were administered to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) to determine if global and/or focal abnormalities could be identified, and distinguish diagnostic subclassifications across the spectrum. The four study groups included: 1. FAS/Partial FAS; 2. Static Encephalopathy/Alcohol Exposed (SE/AE); 3. Neurobehavioral Disorder/Alcohol Exposed (ND/AE) as diagnosed with the FASD 4-Digit Code; and 4. healthy peers with no prenatal alcohol exposure. Presented here are the MRI assessments used to compare the sizes of brain regions between the four groups. The neuropsychological/behavioral, MRS, and fMRI outcomes are reported separately.
Results
Progressing across the four study groups from Controls to ND/AE to SE/AE to FAS/PFAS, the mean absolute size of the total brain, frontal lobe, caudate, putamen, hippocampus, cerebellar vermis, and corpus callosum length decreased incrementally and significantly. The FAS/PFAS group (the only group with the 4-Digit FAS facial phenotype) had disproportionately smaller frontal lobes relative to all other groups. The FAS/PFAS and SE/AE groups (the two groups with the most severe CNS dysfunction) had disproportionately smaller caudate regions relative to the ND/AE and Control groups. The prevalence of subjects in the FAS/PFAS, SE/AE, and ND/AE groups that had one or more brain regions, two or more standard deviations below the mean size observed in the Control group was78%, 58%, and 43%, respectively . Significant correlations were observed between size of brain regions and level of prenatal alcohol exposure, magnitude of FAS facial phenotype, and level of CNS dysfunction.
Conclusions
MRI provided further validation that ND/AE, SE/AE, and FAS/PFAS, as defined by the FASD 4-Digit Code, are three clinically distinct and increasingly more affected diagnostic subclassifications under the umbrella of FASD. Neurostructural abnormalities are present across the spectrum. MRI could importantly augment diagnosis of conditions under the umbrella of FASD, once population-based norms for structural development of the human brain are established.
doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2009.01004.x
PMCID: PMC4170878  PMID: 19572986
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD); Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); FASD 4-Digit Diagnostic Code
22.  Overview of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders for Mental Health Professionals 
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and related disorders such as Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) are the most common form of developmental disability and birth defects in the western world. Early recognition and accurate diagnosis by mental health professionals remains a key issue. This article reviews history, mechanisms of alcohol exposure, epidemiology, diagnosis and management of FASD.
PMCID: PMC2582751  PMID: 19030526
23.  Guidelines for identification and treatment of individuals with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and associated fetal alcohol spectrum disorders based upon expert consensus 
BMC Psychiatry  2016;16:324.
Background
The association of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) results in a complex constellation of symptoms that complicates the successful diagnosis and treatment of the affected individual. Current literature lacks formal guidelines, randomized control trials, and evidence-based treatment plans for individuals with ADHD and associated FASD. Therefore, a meeting of professional experts was organized with the aim of producing a consensus on identification and treatment guidelines that will aid clinicians in caring for this unique patient population.
Methods
Experts from multiple disciplines in the fields of ADHD and FASD convened in London, United Kingdom, for a meeting hosted by the United Kingdom ADHD Partnership (UKAP; www.UKADHD.com) in June 2015. The meeting provided the opportunity to address the complexities of ADHD and FASD from different perspectives and included presentations, discussions, and group work. The attendees worked towards producing a consensus for a unified approach to ADHD and associated FASD.
Results
The authors successfully came to consensus and produced recommended guidelines with specific regards to identification and assessment, interventions and treatments, and multiagency liaisons and care management, highlighting that a lifespan approach to treatment needs to be adopted by all involved. Included in the guidelines are: 1) unique ‘red flags’, which when identified in the ADHD population can lead to an accurate associated FASD diagnosis, 2) a treatment decision tree, and 3) recommendations for multiagency care management.
Conclusions
While clinically useful guidelines were achieved, more research is still needed to contribute to the knowledge base about the diagnosis, treatment, and management of those with ADHD and associated FASD.
doi:10.1186/s12888-016-1027-y
PMCID: PMC5032241  PMID: 27655132
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); Co-morbid or associated FASD; Treatment guidelines; Consensus; Interventions
24.  Tobacco Company Efforts to Influence the Food and Drug Administration-Commissioned Institute of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001450.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues investigate efforts by tobacco companies to influence Clearing the Smoke, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report on harm reduction tobacco products.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction,” leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Conclusions
Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Up to half of tobacco users will die of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or another tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes and other tobacco products cause disease because they expose their users to nicotine and numerous other toxic chemicals. Tobacco companies have been working to develop a “safe” cigarette for more than half a century. Initially, their attention focused on cigarettes that produced lower tar and nicotine yields in machine-smoking tests. These products were perceived as “safer” products by the public and scientists for many years, but it is now known that the use of low-yield cigarettes can actually expose smokers to higher levels of toxins than standard cigarettes. More recently, the tobacco companies have developed other products (for example, products that heat aerosols of nicotine, rather than burning the tobacco) that claim to reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease, but they can only market these modified risk tobacco products in the US after obtaining Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In 1999, the FDA commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM, an influential source of independent expert advice on medical issues) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction.” In 2001, the IOM published its report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm and Reduction, which, although controversial, set the tone for the development and regulation of tobacco products in the US, particularly those claiming to be less dangerous, in subsequent years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Tobacco companies have a long history of working to shape scientific discussions and agendas. For example, they have produced research results designed to “create controversy” about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers investigate how tobacco companies organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the Clearing the Smoke report on modified risk tobacco products by analyzing tobacco industry and IOM documents.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) for documents outlining how tobacco companies tried to influence the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction and created a timeline of events from the 1,000 or so documents they retrieved. They confirmed and supplemented this timeline using information in 80 files that detailed written interactions between the tobacco companies and the IOM committee, which they obtained through a public records access request. Analysis of these documents indicates that the tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have important regulatory implications, that they developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings, and that tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and regulatory staff shaped presentations to the IOM committee by company scientists on various aspects of tobacco harm reduction products. The analysis also shows that tobacco companies were pleased with the final report, particularly its recommendation that tobacco products can be marketed with exposure or risk reduction claims provided the products substantially reduce exposure and provided the behavioral and health consequences of these products are determined in post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological studies (“tiered testing”) and its recommendation that, provided no claim of reduced exposure or risk is made, new products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) can be marketed without prior regulatory approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tobacco companies used their legal and regulatory staff to access the IOM committee that advised the FDA on modified risk tobacco products and that they used this access to deliver specific, carefully formulated messages designed to serve their business interests. Although these findings provide no evidence that the efforts of tobacco companies influenced the IOM committee in any way, they show that the companies were satisfied with the final IOM report and its recommendations, some of which have policy implications that continue to reverberate today. The researchers therefore call for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to remember that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public when assessing the information presented by tobacco companies as part of the regulatory process and to actively protect their public-health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001450.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Thomas Novotny
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages); for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Heide Weishaar and colleagues describes tobacco company efforts to undermine the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control
Wikipedia has a page on tobacco harm reduction (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The IOM report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction is available to read online
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is the focal point for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists in disciplines ranging from the molecular biology of nicotine addiction through political science who combine their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco and tobacco-induced cancer and other diseases worldwide
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
Smokefree.gov, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001450
PMCID: PMC3665841  PMID: 23723740
25.  Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Current Canadian Efforts and Analysis of Gaps 
Effective prevention of risky alcohol use in pregnancy involves much more than providing information about the risk of potential birth defects and developmental disabilities in children. To categorize the breadth of possible initiatives, Canadian experts have identified a four-part framework for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) prevention: Level 1, public awareness and broad health promotion; Level 2, conversations about alcohol with women of childbearing age and their partners; Level 3, specialized support for pregnant women; and Level 4, postpartum support for new mothers. In order to describe the level of services across Canada, 50 Canadian service providers, civil servants, and researchers working in the area of FASD prevention were involved in an online Delphi survey process to create a snapshot of current FASD prevention efforts, identify gaps, and provide ideas on how to close these gaps to improve FASD prevention. Promising Canadian practices and key areas for future action are described. Overall, Canadian FASD prevention programming reflects evidence-based practices; however, there are many opportunities to improve scope and availability of these initiatives.
doi:10.4137/SART.S34545
PMCID: PMC4861006  PMID: 27199560
alcohol; pregnancy; fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention; gap analysis; Delphi survey method

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