Categorized | Health

Bell-ringing brings awareness to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (Sept. 9)


Sept. 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Awareness Day. A worldwide movement to raise awareness about the largest known (and entirely preventable) cause of mental retardation, FAS Awareness Day begins in many nations with bell-ringing at 9:09 a.m. local time.

From large public buildings to small hand-held bells in classrooms, everyone is asked to stop and talk about FAS for a moment, especially if they know someone who is pregnant.

“The number nine is significant because it represents the nine months of pregnancy,” said Sharon Williams-Bechler, RN, Hawaii State Director for Children’s Research Triangle Hawaii in Waimea. “That’s why the 9th day of the 9th month at 9:09 a.m. was selected. It reminds everyone that no amount of alcohol is safe for unborn babies during that whole time.”

Williams-Bechler and her team have been working with local healthcare providers to produce posters for medical offices around the island. Each poster displays photos of the office staff and physicians, and sends the message that they care about moms and babies, and preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Banners, posters and flyers will be displayed in visible areas around the community, and groups are urged to join in with bell-ringing, a coffee break, planned activity, or a simply a moment of reflection and talking story about this important issue for our Island families.

FAS is the leading known cause of mental retardation, and children born with FAS are subject to birth defects and numerous health issues. They can have difficulty with “executive functioning” or the ability to plan and complete a task, follow directions and learn. This leads to trouble in school or dropping out of school and eventual drug or alcohol use by the child.

For families, coping with children’s lifelong disabilities, birth defects or brain damage can be devastating, particularly knowing those issues were preventable. For the community, the cost is high.

According to Theresa Kellerman’s research, a baby born in Hawaii with FAS, on average, can cost society as much as $5 million during his or her lifetime.

“Most pregnant women will not drink, or will stop drinking as soon as they learn they are pregnant,” said Williams-Bechler, “But since the majority of pregnancies are unplanned, they may not be aware right away. The safest thing a mom-to-be can do for her baby is to abstain from beer, wine and hard liquor, and of course any other harmful substances, even while they’re planning to become pregnant.”

For more information on FAS or Children’s Research Triangle Hawaii, contact Sharon Williams-Bechler at (808) 885-0501 or

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