Objectives: The prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome cases and the usefulness of various data sources in surveillance were examined in Alaska to guide prevention and future surveillance efforts.
Methods: Sixteen data sources in Alaska were used to identify children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Medical charts were reviewed to verify cases, and records were reviewed to provide descriptive data.
Results: Fetal alcohol syndrome rates varied markedly by birth year and race, with the highest prevalence (4.1 per 1000 live births) found among Alaska Natives born between 1985 and 1988. Screening and referral programs to diagnostic clinics identified 70% of all recorded cases. The intervention program for children 0 to 3 years of age detected 29% of age-appropriate cases, and Medicaid data identified 11% of all cases; birth certificates detected only 9% of the age-appropriate cases.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate a high prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome in Alaska and illustrate that reliance on any one data source would lead to underestimates of the extent of fetal alcohol syndrome in a population.