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.
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.
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.
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.
Consumer participation; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Research
Although record linkage of routinely collected health datasets is a valuable research resource, most datasets are established for administrative purposes and not for health outcomes research. In order for meaningful results to be extrapolated to specific populations, the limitations of the data and linkage methodology need to be investigated and clarified. It is the objective of this study to investigate the differences in ascertainment which may arise between a hospital admission dataset and a dispensing claims dataset, using major depression in pregnancy as an example. The safe use of antidepressants in pregnancy is an ongoing issue for clinicians with around 10% of pregnant women suffer from depression. As the birth admission will be the first admission to hospital during their pregnancy for most women, their use of antidepressants, or their depressive condition, may not be revealed to the attending hospital clinicians. This may result in adverse outcomes for the mother and infant.
Population-based de-identified data were provided from the Western Australian Data Linkage System linking the administrative health records of women with a delivery to related records from the Midwives’ Notification System, the Hospital Morbidity Data System and the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme dataset. The women with depression during their pregnancy were ascertained in two ways: women with dispensing records relating to dispensed antidepressant medicines with an WHO ATC code to the 3rd level, pharmacological subgroup, ‘N06A Antidepressants’; and, women with any hospital admission during pregnancy, including the birth admission, if a comorbidity was recorded relating to depression.
From 2002 to 2005, there were 96698 births in WA. At least one antidepressant was dispensed to 4485 (4.6%) pregnant women. There were 3010 (3.1%) women with a comorbidity related to depression recorded on their delivery admission, or other admission to hospital during pregnancy. There were a total of 7495 pregnancies identified by either set of records. Using data linkage, we determined that these records represented 6596 individual pregnancies. Only 899 pregnancies were found in both groups (13.6% of all cases). 80% of women dispensed an antidepressant did not have depression recorded as a comorbidity on their hospital records. A simple capture-recapture calculation suggests the prevalence of depression in this population of pregnant women to be around 16%.
No single data source is likely to provide a complete health profile for an individual. For women with depression in pregnancy and dispensed antidepressants, the hospital admission data do not adequately capture all cases.
Population-based; Data linkage; Pharmacovigilance; Case ascertainment; Depression; Pregnancy; Antidepressant
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.
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.
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%).
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.
The early years of life have a profound effect on a child’s developmental pathway. The children born to mothers suffering from depression may be at risk of increased morbidity and mortality in the first years of life.
The objective of this study was to investigate the hospital admissions and mortality of children whose mothers were dispensed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) during their pregnancy.
This was a population-based study of all pregnancy events in Western Australia (WA) from 2002 to 2005. The study used linkable state health administrative data from the WA Data Linkage System (WADLS) and the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), enabling birth outcomes, hospital admissions and deaths to be ascertained for the children of women dispensed an SSRI during their pregnancy.
There were 3764 children born to 3703 women who had been dispensed an SSRI during their pregnancy (3.8% of all pregnancies in WA, 2002–5), and 94 561 children born to 92 995 women who had not been dispensed an SSRI. Mean birth weight, length and APGAR score at 5 minutes were significantly lower in children of women dispensed an SSRI, regardless of whether the SSRI was dispensed in trimester 1, or, trimester 2 or 3 only. 0.9% of the live born children in the SSRI group had died before the age of 1 year compared with 0.5% of the non-SSRI group (odds ratio [OR] 1.8; 95% CI 1.3, 2.6). Before the age of 2 years, 42.9% of the children in the SSRI group had been admitted to hospital after their birth admission, compared with 34.1% of the non-SSRI group (OR 1.4; 95% CI 1.3, 1.6). The most common reason for admission to hospital was acute bronchiolitis (OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.3, 1.8), with an increased risk seen in children of mothers who did not smoke during their pregnancy (OR 1.7; 95% CI 1.4, 2.0).
The children in the SSRI group were more likely to be admitted to hospital in the first years of life, and this may reflect their prenatal exposure to SSRIs, be related to maternal depression, or SSRI use may be a proxy for an environmental exposure such as smoking, or a combination of these factors. Although the numbers of deaths in the first year of life were small, the increased risk of death in the first year of life in the SSRI group (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.3, 2.6) is a new finding and should be investigated further.
To evaluate health professionals' agreement with components of published diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in order to guide the development of standard diagnostic guidelines for Australia.
A modified Delphi process was used to assess agreement among health professionals with expertise or experience in FASD screening or diagnosis. An online survey, which included 36 Likert statements on diagnostic methods, was administered over two survey rounds. For fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), health professionals were presented with concepts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), University of Washington (UW), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), revised IOM and Canadian diagnostic criteria. For partial FAS (PFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), concepts based on the IOM and the Canadian diagnostic criteria were compared.
130 Australian and 9 international health professionals.
Of 139 health professionals invited to complete the survey, 103 (74.1%) responded, and 74 (53.2%) completed one or more questions on diagnostic criteria. We found consensus agreement among participants on the diagnostic criteria for FAS, with the UW criteria most commonly endorsed when compared with all other published criteria for FAS. When health professionals were presented with concepts based on the Canadian and IOM diagnostic criteria, we found consensus agreement but no clear preference for either the Canadian or IOM criteria for the diagnosis of PFAS, and no consensus agreement on diagnostic criteria for ARND. We also found no consensus on the IOM diagnostic criteria for ARBD.
Participants indicated clear support for use of the UW diagnostic criteria for FAS in Australia. These findings should be used to develop guidelines to facilitate improved awareness of, and address identified gaps in the infrastructure for, FASD diagnosis in Australia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This study aimed to investigate the trajectories over time of health status and health service use in Rett syndrome by mutation type. Data were obtained from questionnaires administered over six years to 256 participants from the Australian Rett Syndrome Database. Health status (episodes of illness and medication load) and health service use (general practitioner and specialist visits and hospital stays) were summarized into composite scores with Principal Component Analysis. Linear and mixed regression models examined effects of mutation type and other variables on these scores over time. For some mutations (such as p.R255X, p.R168X) health status was poorer at a younger age and improved over time, while for p.R133C it was better at a younger age and deteriorated with time. For those with p.R133C health service use was lowest at a younger age and highest at 25 years. With other mutations, such as p.R255X, p.R270X, p.R294X, C terminal and p.R306C, health service use was higher at a younger age, but dropped off considerably by 25 years of age. Health service use generally declined in parallel with deterioration in health status, although this pattern differed by mutation type, demonstrating important variability in the course of Rett syndrome.
To explore women's alcohol consumption in pregnancy, and potential predictors of alcohol consumption in pregnancy including: demographic characteristics; and women's knowledge and attitudes regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its effects on the fetus.
We conducted a national cross-sectional survey via computer assisted telephone interview of 1103 Australian women aged 18 to 45 years. Participants were randomly selected from the Electronic White Pages. Pregnant women were not eligible to participate. Quotas were set for age groups and a minimum of 100 participants per state to ensure a national sample reflecting the population. The questionnaire was based on a Health Canada survey with additional questions constructed by the investigators. Descriptive statistics were calculated and logistic regression analyses were used to assess associations of alcohol consumption in pregnancy with participants' characteristics, knowledge and attitudes.
The majority of women (89.4%) had consumed alcohol in the last 12 months. During their last pregnancy (n = 700), 34.1% drank alcohol. When asked what they would do if planning a pregnancy (n = 1103), 31.6% said they would consume alcohol and 4.8% would smoke. Intention to consume alcohol in a future pregnancy was associated with: alcohol use in the last pregnancy (adjusted OR (aOR) 43.9; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 27.0 to 71.4); neutral or positive attitudes towards alcohol use in pregnancy (aOR 5.1; 95% CI 3.6 to 7.1); intention to smoke in a future pregnancy (aOR 4.7; 95% CI 2.5 to 9.0); and more frequent and higher current alcohol consumption.
Women's past pregnancy and current drinking behaviour, and attitudes to alcohol use in pregnancy were the strongest predictors of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Targeted interventions for women at higher risk of alcohol consumption in pregnancy are needed to change women's risk perception and behaviour.
Project management is widely used to deliver projects on time, within budget and of defined quality. However, there is little published information describing its use in managing health and medical research projects. We used project management in the Alcohol and Pregnancy Project (2006-2008) http://www.ichr.uwa.edu.au/alcoholandpregnancy and in this paper report researchers' opinions on project management and whether it made a difference to the project.
A national interdisciplinary group of 20 researchers, one of whom was the project manager, formed the Steering Committee for the project. We used project management to ensure project outputs and outcomes were achieved and all aspects of the project were planned, implemented, monitored and controlled. Sixteen of the researchers were asked to complete a self administered questionnaire for a post-project review.
The project was delivered according to the project protocol within the allocated budget and time frame. Fifteen researchers (93.8%) completed a questionnaire. They reported that project management increased the effectiveness of the project, communication, teamwork, and application of the interdisciplinary group of researchers' expertise. They would recommend this type of project management for future projects.
Our post-project review showed that researchers comprehensively endorsed project management in the Alcohol and Pregnancy Project and agreed that project management had contributed substantially to the research. In future, we will project manage new projects and conduct post-project reviews. The results will be used to encourage continuous learning and continuous improvement of project management, and provide greater transparency and accountability of health and medical research. The use of project management can benefit both management and scientific outcomes of health and medical research projects.
To collaborate with consumer and community representatives in the Alcohol and Pregnancy Project from 2006-2008 http://www.ichr.uwa.edu.au/alcoholandpregnancy and evaluate researchers' and consumer and community representatives' perceptions of the process, context and impact of consumer and community participation in the project.
We formed two reference groups and sought consumer and community representatives' perspectives on all aspects of the project over a three year period. We developed an evaluation framework and asked consumer and community representatives and researchers to complete a self-administered questionnaire at the end of the project.
Fifteen researchers (93.8%) and seven (53.8%) consumer and community representatives completed a questionnaire. Most consumer and community representatives agreed that the process and context measures of their participation had been achieved. Both researchers and consumer and community representatives identified areas for improvement and offered suggestions how these could be improved for future research. Researchers thought consumer and community participation contributed to project outputs and outcomes by enhancing scientific and ethical standards, providing legitimacy and authority, and increasing the project's credibility and participation. They saw it was fundamental to the research process and acknowledged consumer and community representatives for their excellent contribution. Consumer and community representatives were able to directly influence decisions about the research. They thought that consumer and community participation had significant influence on the success of project outputs and outcomes.
Consumer and community participation is an essential component of good research practice and contributed to the Alcohol and Pregnancy Project by enhancing research processes, outputs and outcomes, and this participation was valued by community and consumer representatives and researchers. The National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia expects researchers to work in partnership and involve consumer and community representatives in health and medical research, and to evaluate community and consumer participation. It is important to demonstrate whether consumer and community participation makes a difference to health and medical research.
Consumer and community participation; health and medical research; evaluation; Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; alcohol; impact
Research findings investigating the sociodemographics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been inconsistent and rarely considered the presence of intellectual disability (ID).
We used population data on Western Australian singletons born from 1984 to 1999 (n = 398,353) to examine the sociodemographic characteristics of children diagnosed with ASD with or without ID, or ID without ASD compared with non-affected children.
The profiles for the four categories examined, mild-moderate ID, severe ID, ASD without ID and ASD with ID varied considerably and we often identified a gradient effect where the risk factors for mild-moderate ID and ASD without ID were at opposite extremes while those for ASD with ID were intermediary. This was demonstrated clearly with increased odds of ASD without ID amongst older mothers aged 35 years and over (odds ratio (OR) = 1.69 [CI: 1.18, 2.43]), first born infants (OR = 2.78; [CI: 1.67, 4.54]), male infants (OR = 6.57 [CI: 4.87, 8.87]) and increasing socioeconomic advantage. In contrast, mild-moderate ID was associated with younger mothers aged less than 20 years (OR = 1.88 [CI: 1.57, 2.25]), paternal age greater than 40 years (OR = 1.59 [CI: 1.36, 1.86]), Australian-born and Aboriginal mothers (OR = 1.60 [CI: 1.41, 1.82]), increasing birth order and increasing social disadvantage (OR = 2.56 [CI: 2.27, 2.97]). Mothers of infants residing in regional or remote areas had consistently lower risk of ASD or ID and may be linked to reduced access to services or under-ascertainment rather than a protective effect of location.
The different risk profiles observed between groups may be related to aetiological differences or ascertainment factors or both. Untangling these pathways is challenging but an urgent public health priority in view of the supposed autism epidemic.
Alcohol exposure in pregnancy is a common and modifiable risk factor for poor pregnancy and child outcomes. Alcohol exposure in pregnancy can cause a range of physical and neurodevelopmental problems in the child including the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). In order to improve prevention strategies, we sought to describe the knowledge and attitudes of women of childbearing age regarding alcohol consumption during pregnancy and its effects on the fetus.
We conducted a national cross-sectional survey via computer assisted telephone interview of 1103 Australian women aged 18 to 45 years. Participants were randomly selected from the Electronic White Pages. Pregnant women were not eligible to participate. Quotas were set for age groups and a minimum of 100 participants per state to ensure a national sample reflecting the population. The questionnaire was based on a Health Canada survey with additional questions constructed by the investigators. Descriptive statistics were calculated and logistic regression analyses were used to assess associations with participants' knowledge and attitudes.
Of women surveyed, 61.5% had heard about effects of alcohol on the fetus and 55.3% had heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Although 92.7% agreed alcohol can affect the unborn child, 16.2% did not agree that the disabilities could be lifelong. Most women agreed that pregnant women should not drink alcohol (80.2%) and 79.2% reported having negative feelings towards pregnant women drinking alcohol. Women with higher education levels were more likely to know the effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy (adjusted OR 5.62; 95% CI 3.20 to 9.87) but education level and knowledge were not associated with attitude.
There was a disjunction between knowledge and attitudes towards alcohol consumption in pregnancy. These findings will assist in developing effective health promotion campaigns to reduce fetal alcohol exposure and subsequent fetal damage.
Hypospadias, a common birth defect, has shown widespread variation in reported rates and temporal trends across countries over the last 30 years. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and trends of hypospadias in an Australian population.
Population‐based study of all male infants born in Western Australia (WA) between 1980 and 2000 diagnosed with hypospadias and notified to the WA Birth Defects Registry.
Main outcome measures
Prevalence of hypospadias, birth outcome and association with other congenital anomalies, stratified by degree‐of‐severity.
1788 cases of hypospadias were registered in WA in 1980–2000 with an overall prevalence of 34.8 (95% confidence interval (CI): 33.2 to 36.4) cases per 10 000 births. The prevalence increased by 2.0% per annum (95% CI: 1.2% to 2.8%) from 27.9 in 1980 to 43.2 per 10 000 births in 2000 (p<0.001). Hypospadias was mild in 84% of cases, moderate‐severe in 11% and unspecified in 5%, with the number of moderate‐severe hypospadias almost doubling over time (p<0.01). There were 1465 (82%) cases of isolated hypospadias and 323 (18%) had co‐existing anomalies. Infants with co‐existing genital (relative risk (RR) 4.5; 95% CI: 3.3 to 6.1) or non‐genital (RR 1.5; 95% CI: 1.0 to 2.2) anomalies were more likely to have moderate‐severe hypospadias compared with isolated cases.
Hypospadias affects one in 231 births and has been reported to have increased significantly over the last 20 years. Future investigation of the aetiology of hypospadias is important to identify potentially modifiable risk factors and ensure optimal male reproductive health in the future.
hypospadias; prevalence; infant; congenital abnormality; Australia
To identify the relationship between characteristics of the child with Down syndrome and the health of their mother.
Families with a child/young adult with Down syndrome (<25 years) provided information related to the health of the child, functioning and behaviour and the health and wellbeing of the mother (n=250).
The mean physical health score of mothers was 50.2 (SD= 9.6). Factors associated with lower mean physical health scores were: child having a current heart problem (p=0.036), a higher BMI (p=0.006) and higher (poorer) scores on the Developmental Behaviour Checklist (DBC). Better physical health scores were seen in mothers whose children required no help/supervision in learning new skills (p=0.008) and domestic tasks (p=0.014). The mean mental health score of mothers was 45.2 (SD= 10.6), significantly lower than the norm of 50 (p<0.0001). Associated child factors included current ear problems (p=0.079), muscle/bone problems (p=0.004), >4 episodes of illness in past year (p=0.016), and higher scores on the DBC (p<0.0001).
The most important predictors of maternal health were children’s behavioural difficulties, everyday functioning and current health status. Mothers of children with Down syndrome appear to experience poorer mental health and may require greater support and services to improve behaviour management skills for their child and their own psychological well-being.
Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) may have significant neurobehavioural problems persisting into adulthood. Early diagnosis may decrease the risk of adverse life outcomes. However, little is known about effective interventions for children with FASD. Our aim is to conduct a systematic review of the literature to identify and evaluate the evidence for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for children with FASD.
We did an electronic search of the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CINAHL and ERIC for clinical studies (Randomized controlled trials (RCT), quasi RCT, controlled trials and pre- and post-intervention studies) which evaluated pharmacological, behavioural, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychosocial and educational interventions and early intervention programs. Participants were aged under 18 years with a diagnosis of a FASD. Selection of studies for inclusion and assessment of study quality was undertaken independently by two reviewers. Meta-analysis was not possible due to diversity in the interventions and outcome measures.
Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria. Methodological weaknesses were common, including small sample sizes; inadequate study design and short term follow up. Pharmacological interventions, evaluated in two studies (both RCT) showed some benefit from stimulant medications. Educational and learning strategies (three RCT) were evaluated in seven studies. There was some evidence to suggest that virtual reality training, cognitive control therapy, language and literacy therapy, mathematics intervention and rehearsal training for memory may be beneficial strategies. Three studies evaluating social communication and behavioural strategies (two RCT) suggested that social skills training may improve social skills and behaviour at home and Attention Process Training may improve attention.
There is limited good quality evidence for specific interventions for managing FASD, however seven randomized controlled trials that address specific functional deficits of children with FASD are underway or recently completed.
Using population-based linked records of births, deaths, birth defects and hospital admissions for children born 1980–1999 enables profiles of hospital morbidity to be created for each child.
This is an analysis of a state-based registry of birth defects linked to population-based hospital admission data. Transfers and readmissions within one day could be taken into account and treated as one episode of care for the purposes of analyses (N = 485,446 children; 742,845 non-birth admissions).
Children born in Western Australia from 1980–1999 with a major birth defect comprised 4.6% of live births but 12.0% of non-birth hospital admissions from 1980–2000. On average, the children with a major birth defect remained in hospital longer than the children in the comparison group for the same diagnosis. The mean and median lengths of stay (LOS) for admissions before the age of 5 years have decreased for all children since 1980. However, the mean number of admissions per child admitted has remained constant at around 3.8 admissions for children with a major birth defect and 2.2 admissions for all other children.
To gain a true picture of the burden of hospital-based morbidity in childhood, admission records need to be linked for each child. We have been able to do this at a population level using birth defect cases ascertained by a birth defects registry. Our results showed a greater mean LOS and mean number of admissions per child admitted than previous studies. The results suggest there may be an opportunity for the children with a major birth defect to be monitored and seen earlier in the primary care setting for common childhood illnesses to avoid hospitalisation or reduce the LOS.
By international standards, water supplies in Perth, Western Australia, contain high trihalomethane (THM) levels, particularly the brominated forms. Geographic variability in these levels provided an opportunity to examine cross-city spatial relationships between THM exposure and rates of birth defects (BDs).
Our goal was to examine BD rates by exposure to THMs with a highly brominated fraction in metropolitan locations in Perth, Western Australia.
We collected water samples from 47 separate locations and analyzed them for total and individual THM concentrations (micrograms per liter), including separation into brominated forms. We classified collection areas by total THM (TTHM) concentration: low (< 60 μg/L), medium (> 60 to < 130 μg/L), and high (≥ 130 μg/L). We also obtained deidentified registry-based data on total births and BDs (2000–2004 inclusive) from post codes corresponding to water sample collection sites and used binomial logistic regression to compare the frequency of BDs aggregately and separately for the TTHM exposure groups, adjusting for maternal age and socioeconomic status.
Total THMs ranged from 36 to 190 μg/L. A high proportion of the THMs were brominated (on average, 92%). Women living in high-TTHM areas showed an increased risk of any BD [odds ratio (OR) = 1.22; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.01–1.48] and for the major category of any cardiovascular BD (OR = 1.62; 95% CI, 1.04–2.51), compared with women living in low-TTHM areas.
Brominated forms constituted the significant fraction of THMs in all areas. Small but statistically significant increases in risks of BDs were associated with residence in areas with high THMs.
birth defects; disinfection by-products; epidemiology; pregnancy; trihalomethanes (THMs)
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.
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.
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.
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.