Fall 2009 • Issue 19
NIAAA Director Visits Poland, Germany
In This Issue...
On September 9 each year, countries around the world commemorate International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day (FASDay). The first FASDay was observed on September 9, 1999, a date selected to encourage women to abstain from alcohol for the 9 months of pregnancy. In honor of this day, governments issue proclamations and people gather for events to raise awareness of alcohol and pregnancy, including the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in children. This year, NIAAA’s Acting Director, Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., commemorated FASDay in Poland as part of a visit to the Ministry of Health in Warsaw to sign a Letter of Intent between NIAAA and the Polish State Agency for the Prevention of Alcohol Related Problems. The agreement establishes collaboration with Polish alcohol research centers under the leadership of the State Agency for the Prevention of Alcohol Related Problems. Dr. Warren was accompanied by FASD experts Kenneth Lyons Jones, M.D.; Edward Riley, Ph.D.; and Christina Chambers, Ph.D.; as well as Peggy Murray, NIAAA’s Senior Advisor for International Research.
During the trip, the team took part in several activities to determine if Poland should be added to the NIAAA-funded Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CI-FASD). The purpose of CI-FASD is to inform and develop effective interventions and treatment approaches for FASD, through multidisciplinary research involving basic, behavioral, and clinical investigators and projects. Drs. Warren, Jones, and Riley presented at the symposium “Effects of Alcohol on the Child’s Development,” held at the Poznan University of Medical Sciences. The group also visited a psychological clinic in Żywiec, where children are treated for FASD, and made an appearance at the national Polish symposium in honor of FASDay in the small town of Ledziny. In Żywiec, Dr. Warren and Ms. Murray also visited the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and they were impressed with the facilities and basic science studies in alcohol.
“Poland is being considered for participation in CI-FASD in part because of its public health interest in FASD; scientific commitment to understanding the disorder; and the country’s stable economy—important factors in Central Europe, where prenatal alcohol exposure can be a significant public health issue,” said Dr. Warren. In electing to sign the Letter of Intent with Poland, NIAAA considered these factors: the Institute’s previous work with health and science agencies in Poland and the work of researchers at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who are conducting MRI studies and psychological assessment of 130 children who were exposed to alcohol in utero.
Following their successful trip to Poland, Dr. Warren, Dr. Riley, and Ms. Murray traveled to Germany, where Dr. Warren presented the plenary address at the International Symposium on FASD held at the renowned hospital center, Charité, in Berlin. In addition, Dr. Warren and Ms. Murray met with German Ministry of Health officials and several groups representing FASD in European countries.