In early February, Transforming Faces’ Executive Director, Esteban Lasso visited Thailand. The trip strengthened cooperation with Kohn Kaen University (KKU) and its Cleft Center of Excellence run by the Tawanchai Foundation, the most advanced interdisciplinary cleft team in the country.
In the video below, Esteban introduces us to the Thailand-based team:
Several obstacles exist in setting up speech and audiological treatment in Thailand. Since 2000, Transforming Faces (TF) has attempted to provide speech therapy to registered patients. There are only 108 speech pathologists and 86 audiologists in Thailand, a country with a population of 69 million. Hospitals in Bangkok attract most of the available graduates. Waiting lists in public hospitals range from 4-5 months for group and individual therapy.
In light of this, TF, Northern Women’s Development Foundation (NWDF), Speech professionals and university officials from 4 hospitals are considering various solutions. There is a consensus that another graduate program is necessary. Empirical data is also needed to influence the government and public opinion in favour of Speech and Audiological services in Thailand.
In collaboration with four speech professionals from major hospitals in Thailand, we developed some Terms of Reference for a study that will unveil the unmet demand of speech services, the size of the problem and more importantly, the cost of government inaction. The study will be funded by TF.
Esteban met with Dr. Bowornsilp Chowchuen, Director of the Tawanchai Foundation at Kohn Kaen University and a widely recognized surgeon in Thailand. He is enthusiastic about collaborating with NWDF and TF in raising the standards of cleft care in Thailand and assisting the surrounding countries.
In conjunction with NWDF, Transforming Faces has attempted to expand its reach by training village health workers to support a team of speech pathologists in reaching out to rural patients in Thailand and Laos. NWDF continues to provide medical cleft attention to minority indigenous groups in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. In 2011:
- 143 patients were assisted
- 64 surgeries were performed
- 1,066 rehabilitation treatments in seven disciplines occurred
The Khon Kaen University and NWDF are collaborating together in building the capacity of the medical personnel at the Bokeo Provincial Hospital in Houei Xai, Laos. Important steps are also being taken to create cleft expertise among Laotian Hospital staff. Great potential exists to increase our involvement in Thailand and adjacent countries. Along with NWDF, we are monitoring the situation in Myanmar to explore a partnership with a hospital bordering Thailand where over 100 patients who have been treated by our project could access rehabilitative care.