Rehabilitation center of the hospital in Yei, South Sudan | © Dieter Telemans/HI
WHO published a report in early December highlighting the barriers faced by people with disabilities in accessing health information and services. The report proposes 40 measures for overcoming these barriers. As a humanitarian organisation that has been working alongside people with disabilities for 40 years, HI worked closely with WHO on this report.
The number of people with disabilities has grown considerably in recent years due – among other causes – to the ageing of the world's population and the increased prevalence of chronic diseases. Today, an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide live with significant disabilities, representing 16% of the world's population (1 in 6 people).
The WHO Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities analyses the factors contributing to health inequities for people with disabilities and outlines policy and programmatic actions and recommendations to reduce these inequities.
People with disabilities face persistent inequalities in access to health information and services, resulting in a higher risk of premature death (up to 20 years earlier) and illness.
These inequalities are not only due to their disability, but also to the barriers and stigma that people with disabilities face in accessing health care.
People with disabilities are two times more likely to find health care providers’ skills and facilities inadequate, three times more likely to be denied health care and four times more likely to be treated badly in health care facilities.
Alessandra Aresu, HI’s Global Inclusive Health Director explains: “People with disabilities have equal rights to health information and services, but often encounter barriers to accessing them. These barriers can be physical, communication, attitudinal and financial. Buildings may not be adapted for users with disabilities, for example, with no lifts and no ramps for wheelchair users. Practitioners may consider that people with disabilities should be cared for in specialised centres and refuse them consultations. This violates the right to health of people with disabilities and poses a real threat to their health. HI is working to promote inclusive health policies, the training of health staff on disability inclusion in the health sector and equal access to care. Our organisation works with people with disabilities and their representative organisations to promote health equity.”
HI is a leading actor in the field of disability inclusion in the health sector, with a long-term investment in implementing projects and advocating for the right to health of people with disabilities.
HI’s inclusive health interventions identify and address the environmental, institutional, financial and attitudinal barriers preventing people with disabilities from enjoying equal access to quality information and health services by:
- Supporting governments to develop and implement disability inclusive health policies
- Providing disability inclusive health training to health personnel
- Raising community awareness of disability rights
- Supporting clinics to become more accessible.
HI promotes universal access to health care services for people with disabilities and manages programmes on sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal, newborn and child health, mental health and psychosocial support, early childhood development, and non-communicable diseases.
Our organisation has extensive experience in providing technical support to global health stakeholders in more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and Somaliland, to ensure that information and services are disability inclusive.
Physical and functional rehabilitation components have been a key component of our projects over the last 40 years. “Rehabilitation and assistive technology for improving individual functioning can enable better access to other services, including health services. Rehabilitation has a direct impact on the health and well-being of individuals, improving their health outcomes. It can prevent the deterioration of existing health conditions or the development of new ones and so reduce overall health needs,” explains Valentina Pomatto, HI's Inclusive Development Advocacy Manager.