“Many people with disabilities die earlier, some 20 years earlier, and are twice as likely to develop various health conditions than the general population,” said Darryl Barrett, technical manager for WHOSensory Function, Disability and Rehabilitation, reporting to journalists in Geneva.
The Global Report on Health Equity, released just before the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, shows that while some progress has been made in recent years, persistent and systemic health inequalities persist and many people with disabilities face increased risks and risks of developing chronic diseases.
“This is a major cause of these premature deaths. Because of the poor quality of health services,” Mr Barrett said. “Also, people with disabilities are more prone to diseases like tuberculosis, diabetes, stroke, sexually transmitted infections and cardiovascular problems.”
Poor health services
“Health systems should reduce the challenges faced by people with disabilities, not add to them,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This report highlights the discrimination that people with disabilities face when trying to access the care they need.
“WHO is committed to supporting countries with the necessary guidelines and tools to ensure access to quality health services for all persons with disabilities.
Many disparities in health outcomes are not explained by underlying health conditions or disabilities, the WHO said, but rather by avoidable and unjust factors, such as inaccessible public health interventions or people with disabilities being poorly considered during health emergency planning.
1.3 billion with ‘significant disabilities’
“The report also includes new global prevalence estimates for significant disability and about 16 percent of the TAT population, or at current rates, 1.3 billion people with significant disability,” Mr. Barrett noted. “So that equates to one in six of us.”
Given that nearly 80% of people with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries where health services are limited, addressing health inequalities can be challenging. However, much can be achieved with limited resources, WHO said.
to take action
The report lists 40 steps the government should take, ranging from addressing physical infrastructure to training health workers.
“For example, the attitudes and skills of health workers can be quite negative and affect the health outcomes of people with disabilities,” says Mr Barrett.
WHO emphasizes the need for urgent action to address disparities: “When governments want to train their health workforce, it is important that they include disability as part of that training and education so that the workforce is confident and competent. That’s what he has to deal with,” Mr. Barrett emphasized.
The report shows that investing in a disability-inclusive health sector pays off. WHO estimates that governments can expect a return of about $10 for every dollar invested in prevention and care of noncommunicable diseases that include disability.