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A critical year for access to healthcare for persons with disabilities

a surgeon is smiling, in the background a child is having his eyes examined, a group of people surround the doctor
Improving access to healthcare and rehabilitation will improve the dignity and quality of life of persons with disabilities.

In January 2014, the 134th session of WHO Executive Board discussed issues of access to healthcare and rehabilitation for person with disabilities. These discussions are building momentum on these issues in the lead up to the next World Health Assembly where the WHO action plan is to be adopted. This will strengthen the importance of these issues as the international community discusses health in the post 2015 development agenda.

Establishing a mandate for access to healthcare

At the 134th session of WHO Executive Board, held in January 2014, the WHO’s Executive Board discussed disability, in particular access to healthcare and rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. This discussion was a continuation of agreements made at the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly, which was held in May 2013. The Assembly had adopted a resolution calling for better healthcare for people with disabilities and requested that the WHO Director-General prepare a comprehensive WHO action plan in consultation with United Nations organisations and Member States. The plan was to be based on the recommendations of the World report on disability and in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

CBM contributed to the consultation WHO organised in September-October 2013 and were pleased to make a statement at the January Executive Board meeting. Diane Mulligan, Deputy Director of International Advocacy and Alliances attended and made an intervention on behalf of CBM. Three other organisations in official relations with WHO backed the plan: International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine; Rehabilitation International; and World Federation of Occupational Therapists.

In addition to this, twenty Member States, some speaking on behalf of regional groupings such as the WHO African Region, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and Union of South American Nations voiced strong support for the draft WHO global disability action plan 2014-2021 during the January meeting.

Integrating access to healthcare into the post 2015 agenda

The next important step in this process is the World Health Assembly in May this year, when the action plan should be adopted. This will give a clear mandate for actions at all levels both in WHO and within Ministries of Health globally to improve access to healthcare for persons with disabilities globally. 
This action plan comes at a critical time, as you have read in our newsletter, blog and webpages, the international community is discussing the post 2015 agenda and health should be a central issue in this agenda. For CBM, access to healthcare and rehabilitation for persons with disabilities should be included as a cross cutting issue in a new post 2015 goal on health. The WHO action plan gives a clear framework for government action on making the right to heath a reality for persons with disabilities. 
Another key event this year will be the joint work with the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) on this issue. In order to plan together how we will work as IDDC on the WHO action plan and the universal healthcare agenda, the IDDC general Assembly workshop in Cambridge on 15 May this year will be on access to healthcare (see the IDDC website for further information). 
* This article is adapted from the WHO press release from the January 2014 meeting

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