Meeting aims to strengthen efforts to improve autism services in Qatar

US health experts met with Qatari healthcare organisations to help drive Qatar’s blueprint for tackling autism, at a two-day meeting organised by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).

Representatives from the Children’s National Hospital – the premier provider of paediatric services in Washington DC – paid a working visit to Doha to find out about the life path of those on the autistic spectrum in Qatar, with emphasis on 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 Qatar National Autism Plan, which is targeted for full implementation by 2021.

The goals focus on developing and delivering programmes 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.

WISH CEO Sultana Afdhal 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 practices.

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 organisations who are making important contributions to Qatar’s national autism strategy, and also to strengthen their capacity to continue the invaluable work they are doing.’

According to Dr Nouf Mohammed al Siddiqi, the focal person from the Ministry of Public Health in the National Autism Plan, they have made great strides in the development and provision of services for autism in Qatar since the launch of the National Plan, and it was extremely helpful to share ideas and opportunities with the team from the Children’s National Hospital and to learn from the great work they are doing.

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. We look forward to benefitting from these.’

The meeting included presentations that highlighted Qatar’s existing care landscape – a picture of current provision and areas for improvement. Participants were encouraged to share details of respite care approaches with 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 centre models, with the programme also including interactive training on qualitative research techniques and community engagement.

Through research, 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, raise awareness of issues around mental health, and develop evidence-based research to address policy challenges in this area.

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