Rehabilitation: Key to creating enabling environments

News release

WHO/Y. Shimizu

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 15% of the global population experience disability. This equates to around 270 million people in the Western Pacific Region. Many of these people encounter participation restrictions that significantly impact their ability to access health care and rehabilitation.

Disability in the Western Pacific Region

The Western Pacific Region is experiencing higher rates of disability due to population ageing, increases in chronic health conditions, and other factors such as injuries and emergencies. In Asia, older people with disability are requiring additional support to maintain their independence and physical functioning.

In the Pacific, noncommunicable diseases are on the rise, resulting in more people experiencing disability because of the impact of strokes, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Throughout the Western Pacific Region, people are exposed to disasters such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis that can cause significant injuries and contribute to disability.

“Keeping in mind that disability is a natural part of the human condition, and that all of us will experience disability at some point in life, we must make rehabilitation part of the continuum of people-centred care,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at today’s Meeting on Rehabilitation as Part of the Continuum of People-Centred Care.

Rehabilitation services restore or maintain function after a health problem, but are often under prioritized and neglected on the national agenda. For example, only 1 in 10 people with disability have access to the assistive technology that they require to get an education, work or even just mobilise.

"We must engage health service users, particularly people with disabilities, to advocate stronger health systems with rehabilitation services," said Dr Shin. "We must strengthen governance and accountability so that providers, clients and users work together to improve the quality of care that is provided."

He exhorted leaders to "foster enabling environments to engage a wide range of stakeholders," saying that, "strong and steady political will is as necessary as a responsive health workforce for building stronger, more inclusive health systems."

Financial barriers to accessing rehabilitation services are significant, and in response to these issues, the 2014 World Health Assembly adopted the WHO Global Disability Action Plan 2014-2021: better health for all people with disability. It aims to contribute to improving health and well-being and human rights for people with disability. It complements other international commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals, prioritizing equity to ensure ‘no-one is left behind’.

Disability is often linked with rehabilitation, particularly with respect to service provision. Many people with disability require rehabilitation services to address barriers in society and functional limitations.

WHO response

On 13 December 2016, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific brings together representatives of Member States and experts to share knowledge, experience and good practices related to rehabilitation services across the Region. This will assist Member States to understand and identify actions they can take to enhance rehabilitation services as part of the continuum of care, in line with the WHO Global Disability Action Plan.

While there are various models for providing rehabilitation services, having a strong foundation of rehabilitation within a health system is crucial to ensuring the growing unmet need for rehabilitation in our Region can be addressed.

WHO will continue to support Member States in the region to understand how best to improve access to quality rehabilitation services for all people, from birth to old age, and particularly for people with disability who are all too often left behind in development processes.

"As always, WHO is ready, willing and able to provide technical assistance to help achieve this important milestone in the development of universal health coverage," said Dr Shin.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Eloi Yao
Telephone: +632 528 9992

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Telephone: +632 528 9993