From the President

Autism Awareness

By Phyllis Sloyer, President, AMCHP    

This issue of Pulse is devoted to autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). For many of us, this has become our most recent sentinel issue. Even before the passage of the federal Combating Autism Act of 2006, I noticed billboards in my state alerting everyone that one in 150 children had autism. The increasing awareness of ASD led to the enactment of health insurance mandates in some states while in others the focus was on the “potential causes” of autism and concern that the condition was linked to immunizations. I believe the most striking aspect of ASD is a reaffirmation of the need for solid public health approaches in partnership with our health care providers.  

We understand the need for focused outreach to identify children as early as possible who may have ASD. It is one of our core functions. We also understand the need to train and work with our child health care provider partners in implementing evidenced-based screening and assessment of the condition. Certainly, we have a responsibility to provide the evidence around the effectiveness of immunizations and the possible effects of allowing immunization exemptions. Finally, we work with communities in the development of a system of services and interventions that are appropriate for children with ASD. Frankly, the elements of that system are not uniquely different than any system of services and central to it is a comprehensive medical home.  

AMCHP will play a key role as a state public health coordinating center for autism. The association will be working with our state programs in assuring that children and youth with ASD receive early and appropriate screening, diagnosis and intervention. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to demonstrate our extraordinary capability at using our resources to promote quality and a comprehensive system of services.