How our world has been turned up-side down this year with the COVID-19 pandemic! Such public health devastation has not been seen in our lifetime. As ASSBI members, we are lucky to be living in Australia and New Zealand, where our governments listened to expert advice and responded with timely and definitive action; where our communities adhered to government directives regarding lockdowns, social distancing and hand hygiene. The outstanding success of these strategies and the community’s adherence to them is on record: by the end of May 2020, Australia and New Zealand had respectively recorded 282 and 301 confirmed cases per million population, each country having 4 deaths per million population. Both countries are well below the world average of 774 confirmed cases and 47 deaths per million population. The pandemic is not only affecting personal health, well-being and social relations, but is causing widespread disruption in education, work and economically. Again, we are fortunate that our governments, labour and liberal alike, have stepped up to the mark, putting policies and economic packages in place to support our communities.
I had looked forward to writing this editorial, which traditionally would report on the annual conference. This was to be held in May in Perth, co-convened by Janet Wagland and Michelle Kelly. Regrettably, it, along with so many other conferences world-wide, had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. So, did that leave me with nothing to write about for this Newsletter? Not at all! I have to say that, as ASSBI’s President, I have been so very proud of ASSBI’s responsiveness during the pandemic. Barbra Zupan and Skye McDonald from ASSBI’s Professional Development Committee, converted the annual conference into a series of “ASSBI 2020 Conference Bite Size” webinars, being presented on a monthly basis from May to November via Zoom (see programme displayed in the Newsletter, or go to the website). BRAINSPaN was quick off the mark in the early stages of the pandemic, providing a vital conduit for communication and sharing resources, including fact sheets from peak bodies. Our speech pathology colleagues have been especially proactive in developing resources for people with communication impairments. Lizzie Beadle and Travis Wearne are active on social media, promoting ASSBI and its offerings via Twitter.
And speaking of Twitter - you know, one day I guess I will look back on this pandemic and ponder what I did during all that time of enforced staying at home. One of the projects that engaged me during this time, has been teaching myself to use Twitter. Being a latecomer to this medium, I had some degree of trepidation (needing yet another work task to do, like I need a hole in the head!), but the reason was to help advance the cause of raising the profile of ASSBI (and NeuroBITE). I have to say how amazed I am at this medium, how engaging it is, discovering who is doing what, and its potential reach – and I take my hat off to all those active twitterers – what stamina you have! In reading the tweets, I am so very proud of our ASSBI members and other Australian colleagues who are at the vanguard of developing telehealth and digital platforms for both assessment and interventions. Clinicians the world over are grabbing at such resources in these lockdown and social distancing times. ASSBI Resources, of course, has a number of telehealth manuals available addressing different neurological conditions and presenting problems. The ASSBI 2020 Conference Bite Size programme also features several webinars addressing telehealth. So, well done, everyone!
But the pandemic is not over yet, in spite of the easing of restrictions in various countries. The consequences are likely to continue for some time. Moreover, it is now recognised that the coronavirus infection can cause secondary neurological sequelae. The implications for neurorehabilitation are obvious and are of vital concern to ASSBI, our brain impairment clinical and research society.
My very best wishes to you all,