Our nation’s doctor, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, spoke to the Developmental Disabilities Conference at UCSF on Thursday. Her topic was Making a Difference through Prevention, highlighting how the President’s Health Care Act emphasizes preventative care. She sited her supportive stance on the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, tackling the obesity epidemic in children. She also referred to her recent Call-to-Action Initiative on Breastfeeding that underscores the preventative benefits not only to infants but also to their moms who decrease their chances of breast and other reproductive cancers. She then went on to highlight some of her work to promote the Health Care Act. The only problem was that she made little connection to the needs of those with developmental disabilities.
It’s true that she had a difficult topic to tackle. Since little is known about the cause(s) of autism, there are no preventative measures. The same is true of Down syndrome and many types of epilepsy. In fact, the only thing she could have addressed is the prevention of high-risk pregnancies, a topic covered later in the conference by another speaker. That presenter sited several sources as she identified obesity, older first-time mothers, and the increased use of Assistive Reproductive Technology (ART) as factors that increase the chances of a high-risk pregnancy and/or prematurity that can be associated with some developmental disabilities.
Dr. Benjamin’s presentation reflected the lack of connection the Health Care Act has to the issues associated with developmental disabilities. While there are some indirect benefits, there are no direct provisions to enhance health care delivery for these special people.