The following remarks were delivered by Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta on March 29, 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @markroithmayr.
Merriam-Webster defines the word epidemic as "Excessively prevalent. Affecting a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time."
With the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers now showing that 1 in 88 children in the United States are being diagnosed with autism – nearly a doubling of the prevalence since the CDC began tracking these numbers – autism can now officially be declared an epidemic in the United States.
We are dealing with a national emergency that is in need of a national strategy. At 1 in 88, we now have over 1 million children directly affected by autism. According to a newly released study the annual cost of autism in the United States is a staggering $126 billion annually, more than tripling the cost analysis from six years ago.
Behind all these statistics are real families, real individuals struggling each and every day. Some with autism are struggling to find satisfying jobs where they can productively use their talents and abilities. Others with autism have extremely complicated medical and social challenges. Make no mistake though, wherever one falls on the spectrum, all with autism struggle each and every day. And it is clearly time we, as a caring society, commit to a National Strategy. A comprehensive National Strategy that substantially increases all efforts to date. A call to action that:
As the nation's leading science and advocacy organization, Autism Speaks today calls on the entire nation to commit to this National Strategy, a true public-private partnership:
We desperately need further commitments from....
And it is not the federal government alone we call on. We need the private sector as well as state and local governments to be part of this National Strategy:
Ultimately the question we need to ask ourselves is why over the last two decades has there been such a tremendous increase in autism? Dr. Peter Bearman of Columbia University was funded by the NIH to answer this very question. His findings have revealed that the increase in prevalence is only partly explained by a broadening of the diagnosis, improved detection, and more awareness. A large portion of the increase some 50% remains unexplained. That is why we must aggressively fund research, including the critical study of potential environmental factors. We need to find the answers.
At 1 in 88, let me be clear, the United States is experiencing an autism epidemic.
This is a national emergency. We need a national strategy.
For more on the new autism prevalence numbers released by the CDC, visit our prevalence page.
President, Autism Speaks
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