Mainstreaming Disability in the Health Sector

Very often, disability is not perceived as a health issue. This explains the lack of measures to mainstream disability in the health sector, whose role is also often overlooked in national disability strategies and action plans for the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD.

Achieving the highest possible levels of health and well-being for all will only be possible if governments recognize the need to change the current paradigm, recognizing that global health goals can only be achieved if disability is mainstreamed into health sector priorities, in including those relating to:

  • ensuring universal access to health care without financial hardship;
  • protecting the population during health emergencies; and
  • increasing the availability of public health interventions implemented by various
  • sectors, including the availability of water supply, sanitation and hygiene services.

Disability awareness is a precondition for universal access to health care without financial hardship, as people with disabilities:

  • three times more likely to be denied medical care;
  • four times more likely to experience mistreatment in health care settings;
  • 50% more likely to experience catastrophic health care costs.

Disability awareness is critical to protecting communities during health emergencies, as people with disabilities face much greater challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • directly – due to the increased risk of infection and obstacles to obtaining medical care;
  • and indirectly – as a result of the introduction of restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus (for example, as a result of interruptions in the work of support services).
    Disability awareness is key to promoting the health and well-being of the population, as people with disabilities:
  • 4-10 times more likely to be victims of violence;
  • are at increased risk of non-fatal injuries from road traffic crashes.

Children with disabilities:

  • three times more likely to be the target of sexual violence;
  • are twice as likely to be malnourished.

WHO activities

To improve access of people with disabilities to WHO health services:

  • guides and supports the efforts of Member States to raise awareness of disability issues and promotes the inclusion of a disability component in national health policies and programmes;
  • promotes the collection and dissemination of data and information on disability;
    develops normative documents, including guidelines for mainstreaming disability into health services;
    strengthens the capacity of policy makers and health system service organizations;
  • promotes strategies to ensure that people with disabilities are informed about their state of health and that health personnel uphold and protect their rights and dignity;
  • contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (UNDIS), which aims to promote “sustainable and transformative progress towards mainstreaming the inclusion of persons with disabilities into all components of the work of the United Nations”;
  • and provides Member States and development partners with updated evidence, analysis and guidance on disability mainstreaming in the health sector.