(Rockville, MD) The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has renewed its status as a Non-State Actor (NSA) in Official Relations with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The granting of this special status is the result of an exhaustive analysis undertaken within the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors. The status, which applies for three years, will allow ASHA to continue its work with PAHO, strengthening the knowledge and building the capacity of Latin American and Caribbean professionals and institutions addressing communication disorders in the areas of speech, language, swallowing, hearing, and rehabilitation.
PAHO first conferred this status on ASHA 3 years ago, although the term then was "Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)." PAHO has since replaced "NGO" with "Non-State Actor." This change reflects only a change in terminology. The nature of ASHA–PAHO's collaborative work will remain the same—including ASHA's official status allowing it to participate in high-level PAHO meetings as an "observer" and in meetings at WHO in Geneva. ASHA will also be able to continue contributing to discussions that pertain to communication disorders.
"We have been honored to work with these countries, so far, building solid foundations for the provision of comprehensive services for treating communication disorders," says ASHA President Elise Davis–McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP.
As of today, the ASHA–PAHO collaboration has conducted support in five countries: Honduras, El Salvador, Guyana, Paraguay, and Belize.
In each country, ASHA members of an ASHA–PAHO ad hoc committee collaborate with key stakeholders to develop a sustainable project that supports individuals who have communication disorders.
The partnership has yielded impressive results over the past five years:
- In Honduras, ASHA–PAHO ad hoc committee members helped the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras create the curriculum for its new phonoaudiology program (a combination of audiology and speech-language pathology). Since January 2017, a total of 37 students have enrolled in the program; these students are expected to graduate in 2020. They will be the first college graduates to hold a degree of this kind in the country of Honduras.
- ASHA–PAHO ad hoc committee members in El Salvador helped to develop a comprehensive educational resource package, in Spanish, for different levels of professionals at the Instituto Salvadoreño de Rehabilitación Integral who treat children and adults with hearing loss.
- Guyana's Ministry of Health worked with ASHA–PAHO ad hoc committee members to strengthen the country's approach to early detection and intervention in communication disorders. The result was the development of a new speech-language/audiology program at the University of Guyana. ASHA recruited 18 faculty members for the program, and the program's five enrolled students will graduate in December 2018.
- Paraguay's ad hoc committee is ongoing and will end on October 31, 2018. Three train-the-trainers workshops have been conducted in this country so far.
- Belize's ad hoc committee was created in August 2017 and is currently awaiting further direction on work plan activities.
Looking ahead through the end of 2020, the ASHA–PAHO collaboration's overall objective will be to continue working toward its original mission. Its specific objectives are as follows:
- ASHA–PAHO will continue providing technical assistance to selected countries by appointing ASHA content experts to serve on ASHA–PAHO ad hoc committees.
- Through analysis of country data on communication disorders, ASHA will improve awareness of gaps between needs and service availability in the areas of audiology and speech-language pathology in the PAHO region.
"We are excited to continue our work with PAHO," says ASHA President Elise Davis–McFarland. "We foresee expanding to more countries and contributing to a new initiative of data collection on communication disorders in the PAHO region."
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 198,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.
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