Saima Wazed

Saima Wazed designated new WHO Champion for Autism

MNA National Desk: Saima Wazed Hossain, a strong advocate for autism, has been designated as the Champion of World Health Organization South-East Asia Region to enhance commitment and generate awareness and action to address the sufferings of children with autism spectrum disorder, as well as their parents and caregivers.

As WHO Champion, Saima will be supporting WHO’s advocacy with member countries for the inclusion of ASD in national policies and strategies, promoting WHO’s mental health initiatives and strengthening research and evidence of ASD for more focused interventions.

“Ms Hossain’s dedicated and unprecedented efforts have put autism high on the health agenda in her country Bangladesh, and helped get substantial regional and global attention to autism spectrum disorder and other mental and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her support as Regional Champion is expected to garner momentum for awareness and action in member countries, as much remains to be done for autism in across the Region,” WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said on the occasion of World Autism Day being observed today.

Globally, autism prevalence rates are estimated at 160 cases in a population of 10 000, or one in 62 children, said a press release.

Data from high resource countries show that the estimated lifetime costs of caring for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) lie between USD 1.4 million and USD 2.4 million per case according to the level of intellectual impairment.

In the low-and middle-income countries, children with ASD do not get the medical attention and care they need.  Their life is a struggle, often marred by stigma, marginalisation and discrimination.

Autism continues to be a public health challenge which needs to be addressed with more focused efforts, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

WHO has been advocating for political commitment to the needs and services for ASD, scaling-up resources and raising public awareness to facilitate early detection, community based intervention and multisectoral approach to reduce the impact of ASD.

Among the Region’s 11 countries, Bangladesh has made focused interventions for autism and much of the pioneering work has been initiated by Saima Hossain.

Saima Wazed leads various national, regional and global advisory committees and networks.  She is the chair of Global Autism Public Health Initiative, Bangladesh, and National Advisory Committee on Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Autism.

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