Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened its historic first conference on autism. The Geneva meeting represents the first step in enacting the recently passed World Health Assembly resolution on autism.
Autism Speaks is co-sponsoring the conference, which is developing recommendations for improving access to autism services around the world, with special emphasis on underserved communities and families.
Autism Speaks Senior Vice President of Scientific Affairs Andy Shih thanked the participants for their support of the “Global Autism Movement” and issued a call to action:
“While the future looks bright, trends in prevalence highlight the urgency to do more and to do it now,” he said. (See video above for Dr. Shih’s full remarks.)
Michael Rosanoff, Autism Speaks associate director of public health research, moderated a session on “Advocacy, Leadership, and Governance” with speakers from Bangladesh, India, Japan and Russia. Participants discussed the importance of a multidisciplinary approaches that combine medical and education services. Other recommendations included empowerment of families and self-advocates and increased focus on lifelong support and adult employment opportunities.
Saima Wazed Hossian, daughter of the prime minister of Bangladesh, shared success stories from her country’s participation in Autism Speaks' Global Autism Public Health Initiative. They included the development of a national committee on autism with participants from eight Bangladeshi government ministries.
Days 2 and 3 of the conference will center on working groups developing plans for assessment, comprehensive care, health promotion and research. With technical support from WHO, the outcome will be a clear set of strategies to improve the lives of families affected by autism worldwide.