On September 26, 2019, the Opening Ceremony of the Bachelor of Rehabilitation Techniques with Specialization in Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) was organized at the Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy. This is the first pilot bachelor training program in SALT in Vietnam, which is a component of the project “Speech and Language Therapy Education Development in Vietnam” funded by USAID for the period of 2017 – 2022.
The ceremony is recognized as a milestone in SALT in Vietnam, showing great efforts of stakeholders and the strong commitment and cooperation of non-governmental and governmental organizations, who work to establish a formal Bachelor training program in SALT in Vietnam.
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 impact 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 at a lower income status.
In 2016, a speech and language assessment by USAID analysed the SALT situation in Vietnam and showed that SALT has been approached mainly from two perspectives of health and special education. From the health perspective, SALT 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 SALT practitioners.
In last 10 years, SALT 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 SALT services in Vietnam. However, this number is inadequate, and the consistent provision of SALT services by these trained practitioners is still a challenge in Vietnam in both rural and urban areas.
Therefore, together with related stakeholdres in this SALT education development project, MCNV, VietHealth and USAID strongly believes that there should be a systematic training program on SALT which is implemented with strong commitment, efforts, financial and man power investment of both Government and non-Government agencies. With the pilot implementation of this Bachelor of SALT at Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy, all partners expect to help gradually fill in the gap bewteen supply and demand in SALT services in Viet Nam.
In total, 20 students have followed the SALT pilot program at Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy. This three-year program will help learners gain valuable knowledge and skills, well prepare for them to become first qualified speech and language therapists in Vietnam.