WHO/Europe in collaboration with partners provides technical assistance on disability and rehabilitation in a number of Member States in the WHO European Region. It supports countries in following areas:
- improving access to quality health services for people with disabilities;
- strengthening rehabilitation services, including access to assistive products; and
- strengthening relevant and internationally comparable data on disability.
Disability is an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. It refers to the interaction between individuals with a health condition (for example, cerebral palsy, stroke or spinal cord injury) and personal and environmental factors (for example, negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social support).
Disability is extremely diverse, and rates of disability are increasing due to population ageing and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes. 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 require access to mainstream health-care services.
Rehabilitation is part of universal health coverage and the continuum of care for everyone. Currently, there is a significant unmet need for rehabilitation services in the Region, and these services are frequently undervalued in health systems. WHO/Europe supports Member States to strengthen and improve access to rehabilitation services, assistive technology and community-based rehabilitation. Building these capacities is increasingly important in light of rising rates of noncommunicable diseases, ageing populations and the growing number of people living with the consequences of injuries.
Country support is usually based on collaboration agreements between WHO/Europe and ministries of health based on mutually recognized priorities. Additional work is undertaken in cooperation with WHO headquarters on specific projects, such as ear and eye health care.