More Persons with Disabilities Experience Health Inequities

Tariku has bilateral clubfoot and is a patient of CBM partner Cheshire Services Ethiopia Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre.
CBM

Health equity for persons with disabilities and equitable access to health is at the core of CBM’s work. This includes strengthening health systems, with a focus on Inclusive Eye Health and Community Based Inclusive Development, including Ear and Hearing Care and Rehabilitation.

More than 1.3 billion people around the world experience disability. That’s 1 in 6 of us.

Yet persons with disabilities still face many unacceptable health inequities. These can include limited access to health facilities in local communities, but also numerous other barriers, which can be attitudinal or economic, physical or related to communication and information.  

The new Global Report on Health Equity for Persons with Disabilities from the World Health Organization, launched on 2 December, provides a comprehensive analysis of health sector challenges globally as well as the actions that need to be taken to ensure the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities.

As part of a committee of civil society organisations, CBM reviewed the text of the report and provided input such as good practice examples and other suggestions to reflect our views on health equity for persons with disabilities.

Key facts from the report

  • The number of people with significant disability has risen to 1 in 6 (1.3 billion people globally). Persons with disabilities are often disadvantaged in health care access and face stigma, abuse and neglect.
  • Persons with disabilities die earlier, many up to 20 years, and have higher rates of chronic health conditions. These health conditions are largely due to unfair factors that can be avoided.
  • Many persons with disabilities experience discrimination, including in the health sector.
  • For every 1 US Dollar spent on disability-inclusive prevention and care of noncommunicable diseases, governments could expect a return of 10 US Dollars.

Recommendations

The Global Report on Health Equity for Persons with Disabilities contains 40 disability-targeted actions that countries can take to strengthen their health systems and reduce health inequities for persons with disabilities.

The report also outlines three recommended principles for implementation:

Recommended principle 1: Include health equity for persons with disabilities at the centre of any health sector action

Recommended principle 2: Ensure empowerment and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations when implementing any health sector action

Recommended principle 3: Monitor and evaluate the extent to which health sector actions are leading to health equity for persons with disabilities

Iris's story

Getting out of bed was a nightmare for Iris, who struggled to stand each morning and complained of pain in her thighs. Her legs had begun curving outwards at the knees when she was two years old and as she grew, it became harder and harder for her to walk. Iris’s family took her to CBM partner hospital Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services in Muntengene, who recommended surgery for her bowlegs.

But Iris’s family didn’t return to the hospital for surgery. When a field worker visited Iris’s home to find out why and assess their need, they discovered that Iris’s parents could not afford the treatment. Luckily, the hospital was able to step in and support the surgery financially so that Iris could get the care she needed. Now, after surgery and physiotherapeutic care, the five-year-old can move without pain and enjoys going to pre-school and playing with her friends. 

Why we welcome the report

CBM and our partners constantly witness the barriers faced by persons with disabilities, especially in lower and middle-income countries. We therefore welcome this report, which addresses the urgent need for data and evidence about the situation of persons with disabilities, and which comes at an important time during which we need to ensure we learn from the health inequities that were accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Health equity for persons with disabilities and equitable access to health are at the core of CBM’s work. We contribute to improving health equity for persons with disabilities by:

  • Strengthening health systems, with a focus on Inclusive Eye Health and Community Based Inclusive Development, including Ear and Hearing Care and Rehabilitation
  • As part of this, training local medical staff to ensure sustainable impact
  • Developing the capacity of duty bearers such as governments, international organisations and health service providers
  • Strengthening the capacity of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) and other social movement organisations to effectively represent and advocate for the right of persons with disabilities to access health services
  • Advocating for health equity and equitable funding of health services in our dialogue with member states where we and our partners have a presence
  • Providing access to health in emergency situations through Humanitarian Action.

Read the report here: Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities