Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, in his message for the World Down Syndrome Day 2023 with the theme ‘With Us, Not For Us’, stressed on the importance of taking into account the basic rights of all individuals with disabilities and give them fair opportunities to achieve the main goal of improving the quality of life in all aspects.
The minister outlined that all individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities have the right to be treated with care, participate in all activities, enjoy high quality of life, be given the freedom to make choices and being appreciated for their abilities and achievements.
Noting how Down syndrome was discovered, he said “In 1866, an English doctor, Dr John Langdon Down, reported his observation on a group of individuals who possessed similarities in terms of various physical characteristics and certain symptoms.
“Those individuals were recognised as experiencing the same syndrome, which was later named after Dr John Langdon Down himself.
“After 93 years, in 1958, geneticist from France Dr Jerome Jean Louis Marie Lejeune found that Down syndrome was caused by an extra chromosome 21 from both parents.
The French science academy then published a finding on January 26, 1959. For the first time in history, mental abilities were proven to be related to abnormalities in the chromosomes. The discovery was the starting point for a very interesting field of cytogenetics research that has become increasingly sophisticated.
Currently, cytogenetic research has allowed us to diagnose many other conditions.”
Down syndrome, he explained, “can be diagnosed either when a child is born or during pregnancy. However there is no treatment to correct the effects of the extra chromosome 21 that causes Down syndrome. However there are various strategies to improve the quality of life of individuals‘ with Down syndrome.
“According to United States’ Centers for Disease Control. one out of approximately every 700 to 800 births is a child with Down syndrome globally”.
In Brunei Darussalam, the minister said “on average, in the last 20 years about 10 children are born with Down syndrome each year. According to the data from the Child Development Centre, there are 415 individuals with Down syndrome, four of which were born in 1971.
“We now know of ways that have been proven to help children reach their full potential. They include effective healthcare, parental skills in taking care of the child, a positive family life, early intervention that supports and stimulates development from birth; and education”.
The Ministry of Health (MoH), he said, very much prioritises the universal and routine healthcare for all individuals with Down syndrome, “similar to what is given to all citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam”.
In addition, he said “The Pediatrics Department is always vigilant in attending any complications in achild with Down syndrome as early as possible.”
The development of children with Down syndrome, he said, “is also given special attention.
Towards this goal, the Child Development Centre at the MoH not only provides health monitoring services regularly but also provide services to support the early development of children with Down syndrome.
Among the services are medical advice service, certain rehabilitation including limb rehabilitation, work rehabilitation, speech rehabilitation, psychological services, audiology services, education for hearing-impaired children, early childhood development programmes and dental care.”
He said the ministry also attaches importance to special health monitoring for individuals with Down syndrome throughout life.
The Child Development Centre, he said, actively prepares a health checklist to be used on children with Down syndrome until they reach adolescence or adulthood.
“In order to achieve the effectiveness of the services provided, the MoH appreciates the cooperation of all parents and caregivers of Down syndrome children,’’ the Minister said.
“We know that as a result of increasingly effective healthcare, the life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome has also increased worldwide. Compared to a few decades ago, an individual with Down syndrome can now enjoy a life expectancy of 60 years.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham concluded the message by saying “The MoH conveys the celebration of World Down Syndrome Day to the big family of all 415 individuals with Down syndrome in the Sultanate.
“Together, we celebrate the uniqueness of each individual with Down syndrome and appreciate the blessings that they bring into our lives.
“Healthcare, development and their well-being are our shared responsibilities, and when every individual with Down syndrome can enjoy the quality of life we desire, we will all benefit as well.”