Global Health Asia-Pacific Issue 2 | 2023 | Page 68


Disabled persons are at greater risk of dying young

Rising mortality rates linked to widespread health inequities , says WHO
“ Doing nothing to address these health inequities for persons with disabilities means denying the realisation of the universal right to the highest attainable standard of health .”

Anew report by the World Health Organization ( WHO ) has revealed some unsettling news about people with physical disabilities : they are more likely than non-disabled people to die prematurely due to significant health disparities around the world .

The Global Report on Health Equity for Persons with Disabilities , issued in December 2022 , provides an outlook on the global situation affecting disabled persons and their health and healthcare . Its findings indicate that men and women with disabilities are at greater risk of dying 20 years and 15 years earlier , respectively , and developing illnesses than their nondisabled counterparts . The report also reinforces the notion that individuals with disabilities who experience health inequity are more likely to have poorer health outcomes , less access to healthcare services , and a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion .
“ Doing nothing to address these health inequities for persons with disabilities means denying the realisation of the universal right to the highest attainable standard of health ,” the WHO said in a press release accompanying the report .
Worldwide disability : An overview As of 2022 , there were approximately 1.3 billion disabled individuals in the world , or 16 percent of the global population , with 80 percent of them living in low- and middle-income countries . This number has increased from one billion in 2010 , according to the WHO Global Disease Burden ( GDB ) report . The rising trend is attributed to significant demographic and epidemiological changes , such as a growing ageing population and the high prevalence of noncommunicable diseases among the elderly that primarily affect muscular tissue , the nervous system , and sensory organs leading to vision or hearing loss . Infectious disease outbreaks , natural disasters , and regional conflicts can also result in physical impairments and traumatic injuries , increasing the number of disabled people .
Disability-related health disparities The increased risk of premature death among the disabled community is due to persistent health inequity associated with unfair and unjust factors , notes the WHO report . It highlights how the higher mortality of disabled individuals is evident throughout life , with children eight times more likely to die before the age of 17 and older people with physical and mental disabilities facing a higher risk of death within 30 days of hospitalisation . This concerning trend is attributed to the poor quality of health services in many nations and is related to a country ’ s economic growth and individual income levels which can influence a disabled person ’ s life expectancy . For example , a higher gross domestic product ( GDP ) correlates with an increase in 5.5 years of life , and bigger incomes add 0.5 years of life .
Disabled persons also display a higher incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases , such as diabetes , stroke , sexually transmitted diseases ( STD ), and heart conditions due to limited access to healthcare . They ’ re similarly more likely to develop mental health conditions , such as depression and anxiety , compared to those without disabilities . Moreover , poor oral health manifests more frequently among disabled individuals as they present a systematically high rate of untreated dental complications and dental extraction levels that exceed restorative treatment . Apart from physical disabilities , intellectual disabilities , such as Down Syndrome and autism , can pose an increased risk of hormonal imbalance , respiratory and heart complications , and obesity .
The report additionally highlights the complex and multidimensional factors perpetuating health inequalities , ranging from the negative behaviour of healthcare providers , gaps in healthcare services and information delivery , socioeconomic circumstances , and logistical barriers to healthcare access .
Stigmatisation of the disabled community Stigmatisation and discrimination of disabled persons embedded in institutions , systems , and cultural values perpetuate low community awareness and negative societal attitudes on disability , further reducing their inclusion into the healthcare system . Stigmatising behaviour on the part of healthcare professionals might discourage disabled individuals from obtaining prompt medical care , increasing the risk of mortality , morbidity , and functional limits .
The lack of inclusive policies and existing regulations that could benefit the disabled community
66 ISSUE 2 | 2023 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com