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WHO Adopts Autism 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).

The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 50 countries and supported by all, including the U.S. The resolution is a formal commitment by countries to the importance of ASD and other developmental disorders and sets out a clear set of actions to be undertaken to support individuals, families and communities affected by them. 

Saima Wazed Hossain, chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh and daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, spearheaded a truly global push for support for this resolution. Qatar, Bangladesh, India, Albania and Panama were among the main advocates. 

“Complementing the Bangladesh-led UN resolution on autism and developmental disabilities last December, which stressed the socio-economic dimensions, this resolution emphasizes health and aims for specific, tangible impact at the country level,” said Andy Shih, Ph.D., Autism Speaks senior vice president for scientific affairs. “We are following the same path taken by WHO Mental Health Action Plan and the Non-Communicable Diseases resolution, which will lead to new autism and developmental disabilities-related policies and programs around the world.”

“This the first time in the history of WHO that autism has been discussed at the level of the governing body and clear guidance received,” added Shekhar Saxena, M.D., director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.

Coming after the UN resolution in December 2012, this demonstrates the wide support that ASD receives within the UN system. Over the long term, this resolution paves the way for a more comprehensive government level response to autism in all countries, developed and developing. The resolution will now go to the World Health Assembly in May 2014 for its adoption.