Anthony Duttine reading out the WCPT statement on disability at the World Health Assembly.

WCPT intervenes in WHO disability discussion

The world's health ministers have endorsed an action plan to improve health for all people with a disability. At the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May, 33 member states voiced support for the resolution. Five non-governmental organisations including WCPT also stated their support for the plan at the meeting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) global disability action plan 2014-2021 is based on the WHO and World Bank World report on disability and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It aims to:

  • improve access to health services and programmes;
  • strengthen and extend rehabilitation, assistive technology and support services;
  • strengthen data on disability and research on disability and related services.

The new resolution urges member states to adapt the action plan to national circumstances and implement it. 

During discussions on the plan at the World Health Assembly, WCPT representative Anthony Duttine read out an intervention statement on behalf of the Confederation. The WCPT statement pointed out that if national disability strategies and universal health coverage are to be achieved, access to skilled, well-trained and motivated physical therapists is essential. 

“Rehabilitation professionals play a key role in reducing the prevalence and severity of disability through health promotion, disease prevention or treatment and rehabilitation measures,” it said. “WCPT supports the recommendation to invest in multi-sectoral approaches to the provision of services to people with disabilities.”

WCPT pointed out that it is supporting the disability action plan by:

  • collecting data on its members’ policies, guidelines, practices and strategies in support of people with disabilities;
  • facilitating access to physical therapist professional entry level education and practice for people with disabilities;
  • supporting its members’ efforts to improve the collection and use of data on human functioning by delivering courses and advocating for the use of WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.

According to WHO, people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to find health providers' skills and facilities inadequate and nearly three times more likely to be denied health services. The WHO global disability action plan 2014-2021 seeks to address these disparities.

WCPT also made an intervention during discussions on human health resources during the World Health Assembly in May. 

It called for better data and better use of existing data on a broader range of health personnel. “Generally rehabilitation professions have not been identified in international reports,” it said. “With poor or no information on rehabilitation professionals this workforce may be insufficiently considered in health service planning and the skill mix available under used.”

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