Exchange Highlights Importance of World Health Organization Resolution

On May 30, the executive board of the World Health Assembly adopted the resolution “Comprehensive and Coordinated Efforts for the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders” (ASD). The assembly is the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO). Learn more about the resolution here.

Below are emails exchanged by Autism Speaks Co-Founder Suzanne Wright and Saima Wazed Hossain, chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh and daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who spearheaded support for this resolution.

Sender: Suzanne Wright
Date: June 12, 2013
Subject: Passage of the new autism resolution.

Dear Saima,

Andy [Andy Shih, Ph.D., Autism Speaks senior vice president of scientific affairs], shared with us the wonderful news of the passage of the new autism resolution, “Comprehensive and Coordinated Efforts for the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” at the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva last week.

We understand that this the first time in the history of WHO that autism has been discussed at the level of the governing body, and it received clear guidance-- making it a truly momentous occasion for our families around the world.

We know you and your dedicated Bangladeshi colleagues have worked tirelessly for this resolution, and we are particularly grateful that you personally attended the meeting to lobby all the members of the Executive Board, as well as Dr. Margaret Chang, WHO’s Director General. Andy told us it made a world of difference.

We are so extraordinarily blessed to have such a staunch advocate like you on our side. Bangladesh is once again in the vanguard of the Global Autism Movement, making a difference for every child and family living with autism around the world. We are grateful for your leadership and support. And, we look forward to building on this incredible success for the benefit of our families.

We also look forward to seeing you in September in New York.
Warm regards,
Suzanne and Bob

Sender: Saima Wazed Hossain
Date: June 13, 2013
Subject: Re: Passage of the new autism resolution.

Dear Suzanne and Bob,

Thank you so much for your email and your encouraging words. This was truly a group effort and would not have been possible without the collaboration of over 55 co-sponsoring countries, including Qatar and India.

There is still a lot more that needs to be done to make this world more tolerant, accepting and accommodating for those with mental health [challenges]. Passing these resolutions is only the first step and in fact meaningless for families if it is not followed by effective actions.

I plan to continue my efforts the best that I can and within my personal and professional capacity. But we cannot do it alone. I do hope we can continue collaborating on our efforts with countries around the world to make the global community more cognizant of the needs of those challenged by disabilities like autism. And help develop and implement strategies that will steer all countries to build an inclusive society. I hope in September we can meet and discuss some important steps forward.

Warm regards,

Saima