On the 26th, September 2019, the Opening ceremony of the Bachelor of Rehabilitation Techniques with Specialization in Speech and Language Therapy was organized in Đà Nẵng University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy. This is the first pilot bachelor training program in speech and language therepy in VietNam, which is a component in the project “Speech and Language Therapy Education Development in VietNam” by MCNV with funds from USAID through the DISTINCT project by VietHealth for the period of 2017 – 2022.
The ceremony is recognized as a remarkable moment to mark the outcome of a long process with great efforts of many stakeholders, a proof of success of a multi-stakeholder cooperation between international and local non-governmental and governmental organizations, who jointly work towards piloting and establishing a formal Bachelor training program in speech and language therapy to train qualified human resources working in speech and language therapies.
The World Report on Disability in 2011 by WHO noted that 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of disability and the prevalence of people having communication disabilities is high. In the U.S, among children aged 3 – 17, nearly 1 in 12 (7.7 percent) of Americans have a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing. The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association states a statistic that approximately 40 million Americans have communication disorders, costing the U.S. an estimated $154 billion to $186 billion annually. The report also notes that intervention is likely to be much more effective and much less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.
In Vietnam, according to the National Survey on People with disabilities in 2016, more than 6.2 million people over the age of 2, or 7.09 percent of the population, have a type of disabilities. As in most countries, there are no concrete statistics on how many people in needs of speech and language therapy services. However, cited data suggesting that 15% of all people with disabilities in Viet Nam have problems with “hearing”. Some conditions, such as speech disorders in children, have been found to affect as many as 25% of the population of children prior to school entry.
Without support from a speech therapist, communication disorders can have lifelong impacts including difficulties with “learning to read/write, attention and thinking, calculating, communication, mobility, self-care, relating to persons in authority, informal relationships with friends/peers, parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, school education, and acquiring, keeping and terminating a job”. Untreated childhood communication disorders may persist into adulthood affecting subsequent employment, social inclusion and mental health. People with communication impairments are more likely to be unemployed or in a lower income bracket.
In 2016, a speech and language assessment by USAID analysed speech and language therapy situation in Vietnam and showed that speech and language therapy has been approached mainly from two perspectives of health and special education. From the health perspective, speech and language therapy is mainly supporting people with cleft lip/palate after surgeries, and for voice patients, including those with voice disorders arising from vocal misuse, head and neck cancer and various neurological conditions. There are some services developing for people with communication and swallowing disorders after stroke, and for children with disabilities such as autism. However, the support is quite rare due to the lack of speech and language therapy practitioners.
In last 10 years, speech and language therapy training in Vietnam has developed with great contribution from international organizations and universities through short training courses. A small group of speech and language therapists have been trained and have necessary knowledge and skills to provide speech and language therapy services in Vietnam. However, this number is inadequate to meet the demand and the consistent provision of speech and language therapy services by these trained practitioners is still a challenge in Vietnam both in rural and urban areas.
Therefore, together with related stakeholdres in this speech and language therapy education development project, MCNV, VietHealth and USAID strongly believes that there needs to be a systematic training program on speech and language therapy which is implemented with a strong commitment, efforts, financial and man power investment of both Government and non-Government agencies. With the pilot implementation of this Bachelor of speech and language therapy in Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy, all partners expect to help gradulaly fill in the gap bewteen supply and demand in speech and language therapy services in Viet Nam.
In total, 20 students have made their choice of pursuing the specialization in speech and language therapy in this pilot program in Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy. They will have three years of specialization to gain valuable knowledge and skills to prepare them well for becoming the first ever trained and qualified speech and language therapists in Vietnam. /.