FEEDBACK – WHA Resolution reaffirms persons with disabilities’ right to health | May 27, 2021
Humanity & Inclusion welcomes the Resolution on the Highest Attainable Standard of Health for Persons with Disabilities, recently adopted by the World Health Assembly. These commitments should not remain on paper. Read the Resolution on the Highest Attainable Standard of Health for Persons with Disabilities Persistent barriers to health information and services Persons with disabilities […]
Humanity & Inclusion welcomes the Resolution on the Highest Attainable Standard of Health for Persons with Disabilities, recently adopted by the World Health Assembly. These commitments should not remain on paper.
Persistent barriers to health information and services
Persons with disabilities often encounter significant barriers to accessing health information and services, including physical, communication, attitudinal and financial barriers. Persons with disabilities are two times more likely to find health care providers’ skills and facilities inadequate, three times more likely to be denied health care, and four times more likely to be treated badly in health care facilities.
While the general health needs of persons with disabilities are the same as everyone else and can often be met by primary healthcare services, they may also have additional specific health needs. These include access to rehabilitation and assistive devices (such as wheelchairs, prosthesis, visual supports). Despite the higher needs, 50% of persons with disabilities cannot afford healthcare, facing a 50% higher risk, compared to persons without disabilities, of facing catastrophic healthcare costs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, persons with disabilities were significantly affected by the disruption of health services, and experienced greater difficulties in accessing information on and implementing preventive measures (for example, access to clean water/sinks, applying social distancing…). In addition, they might have been disqualified from receiving care, by the pressure to “choose” who should receive care in priority.
The World Health Assembly adopts a crucial Resolution
Recognising the huge unmet health needs and the persistent exclusion of persons with disabilities from health care information and services, the recently-adopted Resolution builds on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and reaffirms the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health, with no discrimination and on the basis of free and informed consent.
Organisations of persons with disabilities and other civil society organisations were consulted during the drafting process and provided critical input to the Resolution. Humanity & Inclusion’s contribution was provided through the International Disability & Development Consortium, of which HI is a member, and in partnership with the International Disability Alliance.
The resolution provides a set of important commitments for Member States to move towards more disability-inclusive health systems, including:
- consulting with, and actively involving persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, in decision making and designing programmes;
- identifying and eliminating attitudinal, environmental and institutional obstacles and barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from accessing health;
- collecting health-related data, disaggregated by disability, age and sex, education level and household income to inform relevant policies and programmes;
- developing and implementing policies and programmes to improve access to rehabilitation, as well as affordable and quality assistive technology within universal health and/or social services coverage and to ensure their sustainability.
The Resolution requests the World Health Organization to produce, in close consultation with Member States and relevant stakeholders, by the end of 2022, a global report on the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities. WHO is also called to ensure the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, and the creation of an inclusive global research agenda.
Translating political commitment to action
As an organization with extensive experience in disability-inclusion in health as well as in rehabilitation, Humanity & Inclusion believes that this Resolution can help make significant steps in both fields. However, we recall that rehabilitation is an essential health strategy not only for some persons with disabilities, but also for many other people who experience limitations in their everyday functioning. Therefore, while we welcome the integration of rehabilitation in this Resolution, we also highlight that the need of rehabilitation is bigger (estimated as 2.4 billion people globally) and requires additional, specific political commitment to ensure that health systems integrate rehabilitation and make it accessible to everyone in need.
The Resolution comes at a crucial time, at the expiration of the WHO global disability action plan and when COVID-19 has been exacerbating existing inequalities in accessing and receiving health care.
As the WHO, Member States and Civil Society are paying efforts to “build back better”, they should look into how building back more inclusively in health. This Resolution provides a solid roadmap to advance in this direction, but it will remain an empty text if it is not followed by concrete and immediate actions.