2019 HEALTH AWARD
Founder, Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss
Vietnam and Mongolia
Paige Stringer’s childhood, college years and professional career have been seemingly traditional. She attended mainstream schools starting in kindergarten. She earned a full tennis scholarship to the University of Washington for her undergraduate education. She earned her Master’s degree and embarked on a successful career in business development and marketing communications at corporations including The Clorox Company and Amazon.com.
But, there was a nudge for more. A chance volunteer opportunity in Vietnam was the push Paige needed to leave her career behind, knowing there was more to achieve in her life. While on a volunteer assignment at a school for the deaf teaching English to children who were deaf and hard of hearing, she was astounded at the low community awareness, limited resources, and shortage of professional expertise to help babies and young children with hearing loss—an issue that is prevalent in much of the developing world.
This opportunity wasn’t just a chance encounter and Paige’s success throughout her life has been anything but traditional. The story behind her journey is actually very personal because Paige was born with a profound hearing loss.
One of the most common birth anomalies in the world, hearing loss affects approximately three per 1,000 newborns. Research shows that the most intensive period of cognitive, speech and language development is an extremely short window of time during the first years of a child’s life. The more time that passes without addressing hearing loss, the less opportunity there is to mitigate its impact on a child’s development. Around the age of six, the effects become permanent as the brain moves on to other areas of development.
Paige wears hearing technology to hear and speak, and the support she received when she was 11 months old was critical to her development process that allowed her to grow and thrive. Realizing her life would have been very different if she had not received the services made available to her as a child, she saw an opportunity to make a difference for children in need.
In 2009, Paige established Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss (GFCHL) to help provide children ages 0-6 who are deaf or hard of hearing with access to locally based early identification, intervention expertise and services during the most critical years of neurological development. The organization offers technology like hearing aids and cochlear implants, training for local professionals to help children with hearing loss learn to listen and talk, and family education programs to help families improve their children’s acquisition of speech and spoken language at home.
GFCHL is one of the few organizations in the world that offers an integrated approach across both hearing health care and early education for children with hearing loss living in developing countries. Their team of medical volunteers—respected leaders in audiology, speech-language pathology and auditory-verbal practice—collaborate with in-country partners to identify gaps in their healthcare systems and establish multi-year training and development programs customized to the language and culture of the country to address those needs. Their sustainable approach to creating systemic change has changed the future for thousands of children and will continue to do so for years to come.
In the last 10 years, programs implemented by GFCHL in Vietnam and Mongolia have directly benefited more than 31,000 children. Their work in Vietnam has involved 38 early intervention centers and three hospitals across 20 provinces. In 2016, they entered into a partnership with the National Center for Maternal and Child Health in Mongolia to help implement mandated hearing screenings for newborn babies and to provide training and professional education to medical professionals and therapists in pediatric hearing health and auditory-verbal practice.
In addition to her leadership role as executive director of the GFCHL, Paige has been actively involved with World Health Organization since 2014 to advance hearing health issues globally. She is currently enrolled in the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health Master of Public Health (MPH) program—one of the premier global health programs in the world—to support her passion for raising awareness to further address pediatric hearing loss around the world.