In recent years, child neurology and development has been under the spotlight in Bangladesh, and there is increasing awareness of child development issues, especially autism. The government of Bangladesh has played an important role in this shift, especially through greater research and focus on inspiring medical students and personnel to become involved in this field. And one of the ways this is being achieved is through the Institute of Paediatric Neurodisorder and Autism (IPNA) in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
IPNA has been working to provide multidisciplinary services to children with autism and other neurodisorders all under one roof, as well as provide extensive training to multiple stakeholders, encourage research in a university environment and run a model school for children with autism. Their goal is to provide a more inclusive environment for children with neurodevelopmental problems and autism, and assist them in achieving their basic human rights and equal opportunities in all spheres of life.
In their latest stride to make this a reality, IPNA, in collaboration with the International Child Neurology Association (ICNA), recently organised a two-day long international “ICNA Educational Meeting” on Child Neurology and Development. This is the first time the association chose to hold one of their educational meetings in Bangladesh.
The meeting took place on November 5-6, 2016, at the scenic destination of Cox's Bazar, home of the longest natural sea-beach in the world. The theme of this year’s meeting was 'Towards Better Service in Child Neurology and Development'.
The meeting welcomed distinguished speakers from home and abroad, including Prof Linda DeMeirleir, head of Pediatric Neurology at Vrie Universiteit Brussels; Prof Lieven Lagae, head of Paediatric Neurology Department of the KUL University Hospitals; Prof Pratibha Singhi, chief of Pediatric Neurology and Neurodevelopment Post Graduate Institute in Chandigarh; and Prof AHM Mahbubul Huq, Children's Hospital of Michigan. The speakers focused on the exchange of knowledge, updated scientific presentations and discussions on best practice in child neurology and development.
The educational conference was inaugurated on November 4 by its chief guest, Mohammad Nasim MP, minister of Health and Family Welfare. Special guests were Shaimum Sarwar Kamal, MP of Cox's Bazaar; Sirajul Islam, secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; and Mahammod Shahidullah, president, Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council. The ceremony was presided over by Prof Dr Kamrul Hasan Khan, vice-chancellor, BSMMU, while Prof Dr Shaheen, project director, IPNA delivered the opening speech.
The chief guest, during his speech, talked about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's determination and tireless effort to create mass awareness of autism and other neurological disorders in Bangladesh and South Asia.
“The children who suffer from neurological disorders are not the burdens of society," Mohammad Nasim said. "Many famous scholars were born with autism and other developmental disorders. I believe that many of our children can take them to that level if they are nurtured with proper nursing, social compassion and government patronisation.”
“Our government is paying special attention to increase awareness about neurodevelopmental diseases including autism as well as taking initiatives to provide more trained professionals to diagnose and effective early intervention in collaboration with the experts of other countries,” the minister added.
In his speech, Sirajul Islam stated the progress made in recent years by Bangladesh, where it has achieved success in various sectors and appeared as a role model for other developing nations. The secretary expressed firm commitment on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to cooperate with IPNA and other organisations to work towards the advancement of proper care for neurological disorders. This includes the early detection, treatment and research of autism.
The chair at the ceremony, vice-chancellor Kamrul Hasan Khan, expressed his wish to keep on serving children suffering from autism and other neurological disorders and he aimed to come up with the best policies and services for them and their families. Director of IPNA Prof Shaheen Akhter added the hope that the meeting would allow all participants to go back to their respective fields with greater knowledge and renewed enthusiasm, and that it will pave the way for future collaborations and knowledge exchange with ICNA and other organisations.
11 renowned experts from USA, Australia, Belgium, India, Turkey and Bangladesh conducted seminars and workshops for over 200 participants, including doctors and other professionals at the educational meeting.