SEATTLE, Washington — Globally, the prevalence of autism continues to rise. According to the 2015 National Health Statistics Report, in the U.S. alone, one in 45 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Countries around the world have similar statistics, many of them do not have as many resources, funds or facilities to properly attend to those who have autism and other diseases involving brain health. The Global Brain Health Act of 2019 is trying to change that and finally address autism in developing countries.
The Global Brain Health Act of 2019
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in Africa, there are tens of millions of individuals with autism who are not receiving proper care. The Global Brain Health Act of 2019, proposed by New Jersey Rep. Smith, will establish and administer a health and education grant that funds nongovernmental organizations through a new program called the Global Autism Assistance Program. In the bill, Rep. Smith also suggests the creation of a program called Teach the Teachers.
This bill also discusses the focus on hydrocephalus and those affected by the disease. Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of fluid within the cavities of the brain, and the only treatment is surgical. Each year in developing countries, it is estimated that more than 300,000 children are born with or develop hydrocephalus. The proposed bill addresses the international need for hydrocephalus treatment and training.
In order to receive a grant from the Global Autism Assistance program, the countries that apply must have some familiarity with tending to patients who have autism to ensure that the grant is being used efficiently and correctly. The grant also requires regions to apply based on their need for assistance regarding autism. The grant helps fund nongovernmental organizations in foreign countries that seek to help individuals with autism.
The Global Autism Assistance Program
Implementation of the Global Autism Assistance Program includes four main purposes: public and educational outreach, clinic and medical facility assistance, supporting families and educational institutions. Providing resources to families that have children or relatives with autism is another course of action for this program. The bill states that families will be given web resources information materials in their own local languages.
Educational institutions with a focus on younger students will also be funded through this program as well as clinics and medical centers that have had a proven past with helping individuals with autism. They will be given assistance with equipment, staffing and operating and facility expenses with the goal of developing further assessments as well.
Teach the Teachers is an initiative program that provides training for health and education professionals. The training will be specialized in teaching and working with children with an autism spectrum disorder. The training will include workshops that are about two to three days within the region of the recipient. There will also be an additional training through a biomedical conference and provide training of “biomedical interventions that can affect autism.” The Teach the Teachers program will also bring medical and psychology specialists to help with the autism in developing countries training workshops
The Global Brain Health Act of 2019 also proposes training services for surgeons to treat hydrocephalus. The primary purpose of this assistance is to ensure that life-saving surgeries for patients with hydrocephalus are performed using the bilateral foreign aid of the United States as well as ensuring the best practices of surgery and post-surgery care are given and trained for.
The training program for surgeons as a whole will seek to provide global hydrocephalus treatment and training within the network of medical centers in developing countries. The program will ensure educational and training curriculum, safety protocols, control standards of quality and monitoring of the trainees and trainers. The program aims to center in a pediatric hospital in a developing country and aim to train 20 surgeons to treat hydrocephalus over the course of the next five years.
Selection for surgeons will be highly competitive to ensure that the program is providing the best care and training. The program also plans to establish 20 medical centers to be used to treat hydrocephalus. The training program will require that each medical trainee performs at least 50 operative treatments using ETV/CPC methods to patients suffering from hydrocephalus.
The Global Brain Health Act of 2019 proposed by Rep. Smith addresses autism in developing countries as well as program initiatives to treat the issue of hydrocephalus. Through grant fundings, countries that would otherwise not have the resources to educate children with ASD or provide medical assistance for people suffering from hydrocephalus can now help improve the quality of life for their citizens.