The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced this week that Chinilla Pedro Peter has been named “Act Early Ambassador” for the Marshall Islands. This program is developing a network of state-level experts to improve early identification practices. The critical importance of this network has intensified with recognition of the prenatal damage that is caused by the Zika virus.
Ambassadors serve as liaisons to the “Learn the Signs, Act Early” Program and work as community champions with programs that serve young children and their families.
Previous to this week’s announcement, there had been ambassadors in 29 states. Peter’s appointment represents the first time an Act Early Ambassador has been named for the Pacific islands.
The CDC began this program six years ago in response to increased awareness of the high incidence of autism in young children. Autism is a condition that is usually not identifiable at birth, but does become obvious within the first three years of life. Early identification of this condition is critical because the best predictor of a positive outcome for children with autism is the provision of high quality, intensive, early intervention services.
Peter was motivated to apply to CDC to become an Act Early Ambassador because of her role the past three years as the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Coordinator for the Marshall Islands. In this role she saw that, in addition to the young children with hearing loss, many other children with special needs were not being identified and were going without special services.
This program is funded by the CDC in collaboration with the Maternal and Child Health Program, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. The project will be fiscally managed by the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii.
Read more about this in the April 29, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.