Many people with disabilities face premature death due to health inequities

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People with disabilities are at risk of dying up to 20 years before other sectors of society, according to a new report issued by the World Health Organization on Friday.

“Many people with disabilities die sooner, some up to 20 years sooner, and more are at twice the risk of developing a variety of health conditions compared to the general population,” said Darryl Barrett, technical lead for sensory functions. of the WHO. Disability and Rehabilitation, briefing reporters 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 inequities continue, and many people with disabilities are at increased risk of developing chronic diseases. conditions and increased risks.

“It is a major reason for these premature deaths due to the poor quality of health services,” Barrett said. “There is also a higher incidence of diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes, stroke, sexually transmitted infections and cardiovascular problems among people with disabilities.”

“Health systems should alleviate the challenges faced by people with disabilities, not add to them,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This report sheds light on the inequities people with disabilities face when trying to access the care they need.

“WHO is committed to supporting countries with the guidance and tools they need to ensure that all people with disabilities have access to quality health services.”

Many of the differences in health outcomes cannot be explained by the underlying health condition or impairment, the WHO said, but rather by avoidable and unfair factors, such as inaccessible public health interventions or too little consideration given to people with disabilities during health emergency planning.

“This report also has new global prevalence estimates for significant disability, and that’s about 16 percent of the population, or at the current rate, 1.3 billion people with significant disability,” Barrett noted. “So that equates to about one in six of us.”

Given that approximately 80% of people with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries where health services are limited, addressing health inequalities could be challenging. However, even with limited resources, much can be achieved, the WHO said.

The report recommends 40 actions governments need to take, from tackling physical infrastructure to training health workers.

“The attitude and competence of health workers, for example, can be quite negative and have an impact on the health outcomes of people with disabilities,” Barrett said.

The WHO emphasizes the need for urgent action to address inequities: “When governments seek 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. to be able to deal with what he has to deal with,” Barrett emphasized.

The report shows that investing in a disability-inclusive health sector pays off. The WHO estimates that governments could expect a return of around $10 for every dollar invested in the prevention and care of noncommunicable diseases that include disability.

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