Message from the Chair

Giovanni Cioni

Dear members, dear friends of the EACD,

Since the signs of the pandemic became clear, as your Chair I have been thinking of a message to our members. The tragic days experienced with dramatic progression by my country have taken all my time and also my thoughts. The words I could have used, would have expressed too much my feelings of fear, the shock of my fellow citizens, especially those from the North of Italy, where most of my relatives live.

As you know, so far (April 7th) more than 130,000 Italian people have been clinically infected, more than 16,000 have died from the coronavirus and surely these numbers are underestimated.

In the last days, the curve of affected persons has shown the first signs of descent and also the number of dead, the system seems to be leading to a significant slowdown. However, this positive fact must be conquered, day by day. The measures of complete lockdown taken in my country three weeks ago, and then followed by most of European countries, seem to be effective but it is important to maintain them.

We have to start thinking about phase 2 and, if the data will be confirmed; this message may be important for your countries that are some days or weeks behind Italy. Hopefully, we wish they have less severe consequences.

As you know, the direct effect of Covid-19 on the central nervous system seems to be scarce and so, even more important, its impact on young population, including children with disabilities, with the exception of those whose immunological defence is low or those with severe respiratory disorders. These data, coming from the Chinese experience, are confirmed so far by the report of the Italian Children Hospitals. You can find updates about it by the websites of many scientific societies for paediatrics and the main scientific journals.

Conversely, the indirect impact of the infection and of the lockdown is huge and especially devastating for children with disabilities and their families. They are deprived from all the non-emergency procedures for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. They are deprived from the social contacts, included the professionals taking care of them but also their mates at school, that are essential ingredients necessary for their development. They experience, directly or indirectly from their family, the stress of this situation.
I am sure that all of you are engaged to the best of your possibilities to mitigate the impact of the situation for the children and their families, by all means, maintaining the contacts with them, providing the maximum support in compliance with the instructions to reduce the risk of contagion.

As I said, hopefully Italy and the other countries will move in some weeks towards a new phase, with a reduction of the restrictions, starting from the structures more crucial for the economic system.

In any case, the economic impact of the crisis in all European countries and in the rest of the world will be tremendous, more devastating for the countries more fragile in term of economic and health system. Moreover, we know that disabled children and their families are particularly vulnerable in these conditions. The result of the survey the EACD made few years ago about the impact of austerity on the services for disabled children and their families clearly indicated this danger.

In this situation, in these dark days, the EACD must see as its highest priority to contribute to mitigate these consequences.

Firstly, our Academy has to give voice to the best of its possibilities to the disabled children and their families and to their needs, in several ways, with all the possible initiatives, communicating data to the public, preparing guidelines for the services, suggesting and promoting new approaches to treatment and rehabilitation appropriate for this time.
The GMC has promoted the creation of a knowledge hub where all the European countries can get information on the current state of health services for individuals with disabilities, a link to the relevant sources and information for country.

Through Elegast Monbaliu, our secretary, we have asked the contribution of our National Coordinators to provide information to be published in our website. In this way, we could create an easy accessible place for professionals and families where to obtain useful information. In addition, we expect to send out at short notice an European survey for professionals and an European survey for families to get more insight into current situation across Europe.

As the first European country to be severely affected, the Italian child neuropsychiatrists and the specialists of other disciplines who work in the hospitals, the rehabilitation centres, the schools where all children disabilities are integrated, have prepared and  published recommendations on how to face situation in the different contexts. It will be important to share this and other experiences in the EACD platform.

In addition, the GMC is often meeting by web, to discuss initiatives to support families; your suggestions on what we could prepare will be precious. Send us messages by mail and other media.

Meanwhile, the life of the EACD needs to continue. As you know the EACD 2020 meeting in Poznan has been postponed to November and Marek Jozwiak and his team are working hard for it. However, probably we will need to carry out a AGM by web in the summer, in order to respect some deadline for our Academy that will not be possible to postpone. The GMC will keep you informed about this and all the other initiatives of the EACD in this period.

Dear friends, thanks for finding time in these terrible days to follow my message.

My heart is with all of you who may be personally affected by the consequences of this pandemic, with your relatives and friends, and with all the children and families you take care of.

Giovanni Cioni
EACD Chair