Posted on October 16, 2019

US health experts have met Qatari healthcare organizations with the aim of helping to drive Qatar’s blueprint for tackling autism, at a two-day meeting organized by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).

Representatives from the Children’s National Hospital – the premier provider of pediatric services in Washington D.C. – paid a working visit to Doha to find out about the life path of those on the autistic spectrum in Qatar, with an emphasis on the transition from teenage years to young adulthood, and share their experiences and expertise.

The discussion at Qatar Foundation (QF) saw representatives present an overview of the range of autism services they are currently providing, highlighting existing needs as well as the progress made to date in implementing the 44 goals listed in the Qatar National Autism Plan, which is targeted for full implementation by 2021. The goals focus on developing and delivering programs that enable early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and improve the quality of interventions and services. They also cover improving continuity of care, education and social participation, and increasing public awareness.

Sultana Afdhal, CEO, WISH – an initiative of QF – said: “The discussion with the Children’s National Hospital has been an important platform that served to highlight the importance of knowledge sharing and evidence-based best practices in an area of significance to our community. “WISH has a long-standing commitment to addressing the needs of the local community in relation to autism spectrum disorder, and it was useful to engage on the challenges faced by organizations who are making important contributions to Qatar's national autism strategy, and also to be able to strengthen their capacity to continue the invaluable work they are doing.”

Dr. Nouf Mohammed al Siddiqi, focal point of the Ministry of Public Health in the National Autism Plan, said: “We have made great strides in the development and provision of services for autism here in Qatar since the launch of the National Autism Plan, and it was extremely helpful to share ideas and opportunities with the Children's National Hospital team and to learn from the great work that they are doing as we continue this vital journey. “With so many of our local stakeholders coming together for this event, I am sure that many exciting new ideas, collaborations and ambitions will have been born and we look forward to benefitting from these.” 

The meeting included presentations that highlighted Qatar’s existing care landscape, building a picture of current provision and designed to identify areas for improvement. Participants were encouraged to share details of respite care approaches with the parents and families of autistic children, and learn more from parents about their needs and expectations. Professionals from CNH shared best practices that are being successfully applied in existing respite center models, with the program also including interactive training on qualitative research techniques and community engagement in research.

Through research, ongoing partnerships, collaboration, and participation in initiatives such as World Autism Awareness Day, WISH works with a global community of healthcare experts to focus on the needs of the autism community, raising awareness of issues around mental health, and developing evidence-based research to address policy challenges in this area.

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