The World Confederation for Physical Therapy, (WCPT) has joined a coalition of global organisations to express concern about the lack of attention paid to rehabilitation in the universal health coverage (UCH) agenda.

Major health declarations from the United Nations and the World Health Organization have promoted the idea of UCH as a means of building equitable health systems.

It is a priority goal for the World Health Organization, which has said that UCH is about “ensuring that all people have access to needed promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, of sufficient quality to be effective”. The World Bank has also promoted UCH as a major strategy for ensuring health for all in the next 15 years.

However, a group of organisations including Handicap International (HI) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as well as WCPT issued a statement on Universal Health Coverage Day, 12th December, expressing concern that rehabilitation is rarely discussed and included within global health planning.

The statement says that rehabilitation services help people achieve optimal functioning and “contribute to healthy, independent populations which can fully participate in society”.

On this UHC Day we want to ensure that these vital services for millions of people around the world are not forgotten.

It spells out the compelling reasons why rehabilitation must be better included in the UCH agenda, pointing out that 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability and that the demand for rehabilitation and assistive health technologies will be magnified in the coming years.  

Evidence is showing a rise in the prevalence of disability. A greater emphasis on rehabilitation is called for within the WHO Disability Action Plan 2014-21, the World Report on Disability and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Rehabilitation intervenes across the continuum of care, enabling greater health and functional outcomes. Access to rehabilitation professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, prosthetists/orthotists, speech therapists, as well as access to quality and affordable assistive products make a major difference in people’s health and wellbeing.

The 21 organisations supporting the statement, all of which have an interest in rehabilitation, call on all those working on UCH to:

  • Establish rehabilitation and assistive health technologies as a crucial component of UHC
  • Include indicators for rehabilitation and assistive health technologies within the basic package of essential health services covered under UHC
  • Include persons with disabilities in innovative health financing solutions that aim to achieve UHC.

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