Disability action plan adopted by the World Health Assembly

May 23, 2014   World

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The 67th World Health Assembly approved the World Health Organization (WHO) global disability action plan 2014–2021: Better health for all people with disability. This action plan outlines why specific action is required to ensure better health for persons with disabilities and gives clear objectives to achieve this through access to mainstream healthcare, rehabilitation, assistive technology, technical support and improved data. IF took part in the WHO consultation that was launched last year and highlighted areas of importance to people with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

Background
In 2013, the 66th World Health Assembly, the governing body of the WHO, called for the formulation of a global disability action plan. Following a year of consultations and discussions, which included a broad range of health actors: Member States, UN agencies, professional associations, disabled persons organisations (DPOs), non-governmental organisations and research institutes, the action plan has now been adopted.

So what does this mean in practical terms?
We know from the World Report on Disability that persons with disabilities experience poorer health outcomes than the rest of the population, and that they are less likely to access health services. Our governments have committed to the equal right to health for persons with disabilities in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), now this action plan sets out key actions to be taken at the international and the national level to make these rights a reality. For IF, this is a crucial document. Our focus is the need to ensure that all persons with disabilities can access their right to health on an equal basis with other people, with an emphasis on those in the poorest communities. The action plan highlights three areas: accessing mainstream health services; strengthening and extending rehabilitation (including habilitation and community based rehabilitation); and improving data on disability support and related services.

Access to mainstream health services
All health services need to take measures to reduce barriers experienced by persons with disabilities. What will be important in the coming year is that Ministries of Health include persons with disabilities in their health policies and programmes and take concrete action to remove barriers that currently stand in the way. These actions should happen at the national level and at every level of health services delivery.