‘Supporting children with developmental delays a priority for Qatar’

Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations, HE Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani

New York: Under the patronage of the permanent mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, the missions of Poland and Turkey, the “Autism Speaks” organization, the Unicef ​​and Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a virtual event was organized to discuss the topic of digital health for children with developmental delays and disabilities.

It considered that digital health, artificial intelligence, and machine learning applications contribute to identifying and evaluating the needs of children with developmental delays and disabilities, and providing care, support and intervention after cases are diagnosed early.

This event represented an opportunity to learn about the latest capabilities and innovations of technology in the field of digital health, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as an opportunity to exchange experiences and make suggestions, in which experts, scientists, government representatives in the field of health, civil society organizations and stakeholders participated.

In her opening speech to this event, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations, HE Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, stressed that one of the priorities of Qatar is to support children with developmental delays and disabilities.

She said that we want to see these children get the same start in life as any other child, or as adults who enjoy the same opportunities and live healthy and independent lives within their communities.

The ambassador pointed out that Qatar was one of the first countries in the region and the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, which was adopted in 2006.

Qatar is one of the few countries in the region that have appropriate laws, policies and institutions to fully respond to the needs of persons with disabilities and promote their full integration into society, she added, stressing that Qatar remained a leading country in research, development and innovation that benefits people with disabilities, noting in the context of the pioneering research conducted at HBKU, a member of QF, on artificial intelligence and machine learning as key drivers of innovation in many industries.

The Permanent Representative of Qatar explained that the research capabilities of HBKU are working to introduce technology innovations such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the extent of learning and attention of children with autism spectrum disorder.

The sessions of this virtual meeting were moderated by Vice-President and Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, Dr. Andy Shih; Acting Associate Director and Chief of Health Program at Unicef, Dr. Luwei Pearson; Assistant Professor and the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs at the College of Science and Engineering at HBKU, Sheikha Dr. Dena Al Thani; Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Julia Parish Morris; Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Duke Center for Autism, Dr. Geraldine Dawson; and Dr. Marwa Qaraqe, Assistant Professor at HBKU.

Dr. Dena Al Thani reviewed the program she is working on at HBKU in dealing with children with developmental delays and disabilities, and the innovation she has reached with her team.

She concluded that the developments in the field of AI and other technological developments like the brain-computer interface, natural language processing and image and sound recognition, the world has a greater opportunity to be more inclusive.

Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Unicef, and the Autism Speaks are planning to create a “global digital health platform for children with developmental delays and disabilities, Dr. Dina said, adding that the goal of the global platform is to promote health services and innovations, and it would provide areas for identifying and assessing the needs of these children, as well as providing an opportunity for monitoring and interventions, and may also contribute to the development of a mixture of medical knowledge and solutions provided by technology.

For her part, Dr. Marwa Qaraqe, Assistant Professor at HBKU, reviewed the possibilities that digital health and AI applications can offer to determine the capabilities of intelligence, awareness, memory, diagnose early mental disorders, and provide solutions for child health.

In turn, Malgorzata Groblina, representative of the Polish GEM Foundation, called for responsibility to push the use of AI, machine learning and technology to expand areas of research in order to improve the lives of people with autism. She stressed that “the priority should be how to use the advantages of algorithms and data mining to create a better world for people with autism.”

On the other hand, Professor of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Head of Autism Department at the Turkish Ministry of Health, Dr. Enver Burak Dorsum, reviewed the Ministry of Health’s national plans to support children with developmental disorders through the use of digital health applications . He stressed the need to discuss what should be done to expand the scale and scope of work in the field of digital health in order to reach new models to improve the lives of people with developmental delays and disabilities.

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