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). This will allow ASHA and PAHO to continue their collaboration to strengthen 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.
This collaboration started three years ago, when PAHO conferred ASHA the status of "Non-governmental Organization" (NGO) in Official Relations with PAHO, which has already provided support to three countries - Honduras, El Salvador and Guyana - and is currently working in Paraguay and Belize.
Each project starts with an initial conference call of ASHA, PAHO and country stakeholders, to discuss their needs. ASHA then identifys an expert who visits the country and meets with the local authorities, program managers and professionals, to jointly develop a project. The results have included:
- Honduras: Created the curriculum for its new phonoaudiology program (a combination of audiology and speech-language pathology) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras. In 2020 the first 37 collegue students will graduate with a degree of this kind in Honduras.
- El Salvador: Developed 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: Strengthened the country's approach to early detection and intervention in communication disorders, resulting in 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.
In Paraguay, a train-the-trainers program which has included three workshops will conclude in October 2018. In Belize, an ad hoc committee was created in August 2017 and now is preparing to deliver a training workshop in August 2018.
In this new phase of the PAHO-ASHA collaboration, which runs until 2020, ASHA will carry out an analysis of country data on communication disorders, which will improve the knowledge of the gaps between needs and service availability in the areas of audiology and speech-language pathology in the PAHO region. They will also continue providing technical assistance to selected countries by appointing ASHA experts to serve on ASHA-PAHO ad hoc committees.
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.