Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all

Persons with disabilities according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.

Disability is the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports).

Over a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population. Between 110 million (2.2%) and 190 million (3.8%) people 15 years and older have significant difficulties in functioning. Furthermore, the rates of disability are increasing in part due to ageing populations and an increase in chronic health conditions.

Disability is extremely diverse. While some health conditions associated with disability result in poor health and extensive health care needs, others do not. However all people with disabilities have the same general health care needs as everyone else, and therefore need access to mainstream health care services.

Article 25 of the Unite Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reinforces the right of persons with disabilities to attain the highest standard of health care, without discrimination.

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), says in the Americas, about 140 million people live with any type of disability.

People with disabilities face barriers to inclusion in all aspects of life: education, employment, social and political life and health. As a result, many persons with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others. Sometimes, stigma and discrimination are the greatest barrier to the full and equal participation of people with disabilities, including the access to health services.

CPS urges the community to work with local organizations who represent people with disabilities in order to make the transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all a reality.

In 2017, significant progress has been made to improve access to healthcare for persons with disabilities and continue working towards Pan American Health Organizations (PAHO) Action Plan on Disability and Rehabilitation 2014-2019.

This Action Plan underwent its midway review at the 29th Pan American Sanitary Conference, and the advancement was noted by several member states. Other key achievements have included Chile became the first country of the Region to conduct the Model Disability Survey – which used its findings to help revise policies, laws and activities across the country.

On 28 November 2017, PAHO signed a collaboration agreement with Special Olympics to increase attention and action on inclusive health for persons with intellectual disabilities, including promotion of physical activity.

In addition to that, the first two regional meetings on rehabilitation took place in Sao Paulo in November of this year which focused on leadership and health information respectively, with the participation of representatives from across the region.

The leadership meeting included representatives from the mental health sector to bring more attention to the importance of psychosocial rehabilitation.

These regional meetings follow on from the significant WHO initiative for “Rehabilitation 2030”, which was launched in February this year. More meetings are being planned for 2018 in the areas of workforce and assistive technology.