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Autism Speaks' Andy Shih Testifies Before Congress

May 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 31, 2011)--The absence of prevalence and other public health data on autism in many nations around the world has created a “knowledge gap” that has hampered the global response to autism, Andy Shih, Autism Speaks’ vice president of scientific affairs, told a Congressional committee.

Testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, Shih cited a recent estimate that 90 percent of autism research has been concentrated on just 10 percent of the global community. Yet the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects an estimated 67 million people worldwide, a prevalence that is higher than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.

“The unmet needs of the global autism community mirror the daily challenges that are familiar to any individual or family in this country struggling with autism spectrum disorders,” Shih told the committee. “By sharing our experience, expertise, and translating and adapting current best practices into feasible and sustainable health solutions, we believe we can make a difference in communities with less knowhow and resources. “

In 2008, Shih said, Autism Speaks launched the Global Autism Public Health Initiative (GAPH), an ambitious international advocacy effort to help other countries enhance public and professional awareness of autism and increase their capacity to address early detection and intervention. Autism Speaks currently supports GAPH-related activities in 23 countries on six continents, ranging from Brazil to Albania to Qatar.

The recently published autism prevalence study in South Korea, that was funded by Autism Speaks, found a stunning prevalence rate of 2.6 percent, with many previously unidentified cases found in mainstream schools. The South Korea findings have raised questions about whether the case-finding methodology employed in the United States has underestimated the prevalence rate in this country, he told the House committee.

The hearing was featured on C-SPAN.