Disability is Integral to the Human Experience

One in six people in the world experience significant disability and they have twice the risk of developing conditions like depression, asthma, diabetes, stroke, obesity or poor oral health, according to World Health Organization. The UN body says this represents 16 per cent of the world population who faces health inequities arising from unfair conditions like stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and healthcare system barriers. WHO asserted several persons with disabilities die up to 20 years earlier than those without disabilities, and they find inaccessible and unaffordable transportation 15 times more difficult than them.

The global body says disability is integral to the human experience. It results from the interaction between health conditions like dementia, blindness or spinal cord injury, and a range of environmental and personal factors. People with disabilities experience ableism, stigma and discrimination in all facets of life, affecting their physical and mental health. Laws and policies may deny them the right to make their own decisions and allow a range of harmful practices in the health sector like forced sterilization, involuntary admission and treatment, and even institutionalization, it said. Poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and poor living conditions all add to the risk of poor health and unmet healthcare needs. They are reliant on support from family members to engage in health and community activities. They are more likely to have risk factors for non-communicable diseases like smoking, poor diet, alcohol consumption and a lack of physical activity. Countries have an obligation under international human rights and domestic laws to address their health inequities. Disability inclusion is critical to achieving the ‘health for all’ goals. Universal health coverage will not be achieved if they do not receive quality health services on an equal basis with others. The WHO’s global report on health equity for People with Disabilities outlines 40 key actions for countries to take to strengthen their health systems and reduce health inequities. The governments should include them in decision-making processes.

An estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disability. This represents 16% of the world’s population, or 1 in 6 of us.

Some persons with disabilities die up to 20 years earlier than those without disabilities.

Persons with disabilities have twice the risk of developing conditions such as depression, asthma, diabetes, stroke, obesity or poor oral health.

Persons with disabilities face many health inequities.

Persons with disabilities find inaccessible and unaffordable transportation 15 times more difficult than for those without disabilities.

Health inequities arise from unfair conditions faced by persons with disabilities, including stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and barriers faced in the health system itself.

Overview:

Disability is part of being human and is integral to the human experience. It results from the interaction between health conditions such as dementia, blindness or spinal cord injury, and a range of environmental and personal factors. An estimated 1.3 billion people – or 16% of the global population – experience a significant disability today. This number is growing because of an increase in noncommunicable diseases and people living longer. Persons with disabilities are a diverse group, and factors such as sex, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity and their economic situation affect their experiences in life and their health needs. Persons with disabilities die earlier, have poorer health, and experience more limitations in everyday functioning than others.

Factors contributing to health inequities

Health inequities arise from unfair conditions faced by persons with disabilities in some countries.

Structural factors: Persons with disabilities experience ableism, stigma and discrimination in all facets of life, which affects their physical and mental health. Laws and policies may deny them the right to make their own decisions and allow a range of harmful practices in the health sector, such as forced sterilization, involuntary admission and treatment, and even institutionalization.

Social determinants of health: Poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and poor living conditions in some countries all add to the risk of poor health and unmet health care needs among persons with disabilities. Gaps in formal social support mechanisms mean that persons with disabilities are reliant on support from family members to engage in health and community activities, which not only disadvantages them but also their caregivers (who are mostly women and girls).

Risk factors: Persons with disabilities are more likely to have risk factors for non-communicable diseases, such as smoking, poor diet, alcohol consumption and a lack of physical activity. A key reason for this is that they are often left out of public health interventions.

Health system: Persons with disabilities face barriers in all aspects of the health system. For example, a lack of knowledge, negative attitudes and discriminatory practices among healthcare workers; inaccessible health facilities and information; and lack of information or data collection and analysis on disability, all contribute to health inequities faced by this group.

 

Source: WHO