On 2 December 2011, at the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in Brussels, the EU Council Conclusions on early detection and treatment of communication disorders in children, including the use of e-Health tools and innovative solutions was adopted. It was the key event which ended the activities realized during the Polish Presidency of the EU Council with regard to the issue of equal opportunities for children with communication disorders – an integral part of the public health priority.
These activities were coordinated by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński and realized by the team of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing in cooperation with the Department of Mother and Child of the Ministry of Health.
The Council Conclusions – negotiated at the meetings of the Working Party on Public Health, and adopted later in Brussels – is the document which directs the attention of a society to the problem of communication disorders and their consequences on the cognitive and emotional development of children with dysfunctions, and therefore for their social and economic situation in adult life. The Conclusions encourage the representatives of EU Member States’ governments and dedicated public institutions to initiate actions aiming at early detection and treatment of hearing, vision and speech disorders in children, among others by organizing cost-effective universal screening programs and by using the possibilities created by e-Health tools and innovative technologies. The document highlights the role of prevention, surveillance and monitoring with active involvement of parents and teachers. It underlines the importance of international cooperation in the domain of communication disorders and also encourages the Member States and the European Commission to include the issue of communication disorders, especially dysfunctions requiring a particular concentration of expertise or resources in the process of work to be carried out on European reference networks, in accordance with the provisions of Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
A unique circumstances for the work on preparation of the adopted later EU Council Conclusions were created in months preceding the Polish Presidency of the EU Council. The cooperation initiated by the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing with the experts representing the European societies of audiologists, otolaryngologists, ophthalmologists, phoniatricians and speech therapists resulted in two European Consensus Statements, both signed in Warsaw on 22 June 2011. The first document – European Consensus Statement on Hearing Screening in Pre-School and School-Age Children – was endorsed by 35 representatives of 27 countries. The second document – European Consensus Statement on Hearing, Vision and Speech Screening in Pre-School and School-Age Children – was signed by the representatives of mentioned above European societies.
This international scientific support has been extremely important for further activities and next projects which should be run on European scale and with a support of national and EU institutions.