THE frequency of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in certain South African communities is the highest reported anywhere in the world. Rates among developed countries are approximately one per thousand live births, whereas the figures among grade one children in some local communities varies between 46-98 per 1 000.
Eminent medical research teams and other experts from the United States and South Africa will be joined by high-level South African government officials and US diplomatic representatives, hosted by UCT's Faculty of Health Sciences, in the Boehringer Ingelheim Lung Institute this week (Nov 7-8).
They will discuss plans to combat FAS, the most common cause of mental retardation among new born infants in the world.
The conference will be held under the auspices of the South African-based Foundation of Alcohol Related Research (FARR) and the South AfricanUS Co-operation Forum Health Committee. Delegates will be reviewing the results of FAS research undertaken by South African and US investigators over the past five years. Several high-level South African health officials will also attend the conference.
The US, represented at the opening by the US Ambassador to South Africa, Cameron Hume, will play a major role at the conference, through federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and academic institutions.
Conference chairperson Professor Denis Viljoen, who is also chairperson and chief executive officer of FARR, says the conference will be the culmination of an extensive and on-going collaborative effort between a number of academic and medical institutions and agencies in South Africa and the US.
â€œIn reviewing the research already undertaken, delegates will also discuss and plan future studies and will work on an agenda to develop intervention and prevention programmes to reduce the incidence and impact of FAS in South Africa and the US,â€ he says.
Keynotes speakers will include Professor Melvyn Freeman, director of the South African National Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and Dr Colleen Boyle, director of the National Centre of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities