To mark this year’s World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD 2021), Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is raising awareness among the public to connect with individuals affected by Down syndrome to promote their optimal quality of life and protect their rights.

The theme for this year’s WDSD is ‘Connect’ which signals the importance of the connection between people with Down syndrome and the community, to share ideas, experiences, and knowledge and to empower one another to advocate for equal rights for people with Down syndrome.

HMC also recognises that people with Down syndrome have great potential and that they can lead normal healthy lives and enjoy a higher life expectancy. Although most are more likely to have certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, hearing and vision problems, and gastrointestinal issues, many of these conditions are now treatable.

Optimal quality of life through care and support

According to Dr Sona Tahtamouni, Developmental Pediatrician, at Child Development Center in Rumailah Hospital, individuals with Down syndrome can achieve optimal quality of life through parental care and support, medical guidance and community-based support systems such as inclusive health and education at all levels.

This facilitates their participation in mainstream society and the fulfilment of their personal potential. Adequate access to healthcare, to early intervention programmes are also vital to the growth and development of the individual.

Fatima Mustafa, Assistant Director of Pediatric Therapy Services, says that currently, around 75 children with Down syndrome and their families are receiving therapy through the Early Intervention Program at the Child Development Center in Rumailah Hospital.

World Down Syndrome Day
A child with Down syndrome during a therapy session at the Child Development Center in Rumailah Hospital 

The children are receiving therapy sessions from highly qualified multi-disciplinary teams of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, special education experts and psychologists.

Mustafa said that the programme receives between 40 to 50 new referrals of children with Down syndrome each year, from HMC’s maternity hospitals and from primary health centres.

The children are provided with a comprehensive medical and developmental assessment by a developmental paediatrician followed by referral to the early intervention programme or other therapy services. The early intervention programme offers parent-to-parent counselling, family, and group therapy in addition to individual therapy sessions.

Down syndrome and World Oral Health Day

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality typically associated with characteristic physical features, some health and developmental challenges, and some level of intellectual disability. The World Health Organization estimates that the incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 live births worldwide. Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children worldwide are born with Down syndrome each year.

Every 21 March (or from 3 to 21 March), the Child Development Center and Therapy Services in Rumailah Hospital join the global community in raising public awareness to celebrate people with Down syndrome and those who live and work with them throughout the world. The date, 3-21 represents Trisomy 21, the medical term for Down syndrome, which is the third replication of the 21st chromosome.

This year’s campaign also features advice on oral health for children with Down syndrome, which aligns with the World Oral Health Day theme (marked annually on 20 March), which is to be ‘proud of your mouth’ and protect your oral health.

Part of the physiology of Down syndrome includes the delayed appearance of teeth and other oral health challenges. Parents are advised to arrange a visit to the dentist in the first year of the child’s life and learn about how best to help them take care of their future mouth health.

Highlights of this year’s awareness programme at HMC include finding new ways to connect and integrate people with Down syndrome into the community as well as ensuring that their rights are protected. Educational and awareness leaflets, posters and roll-ups about Down syndrome are on display at all HMC hospital lobbies.

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