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Nearly one billion people globally denied access to assistive products: Report | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Nearly one billion people globally are denied access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, even as more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products such as wheelchairs, spectacles, hearing aids, or apps that support communication and cognition, a new report by WHO and UNICEF shows.
In India, the estimated unmet need for assistive technology and associated services is pegged at 70%, experts say. While disadvantaged groups – including those who need assistive technology (AT) such as people with disability; older people; people with communicable and noncommunicable diseases including neglected tropical diseases and others – often find it difficult to access affordable quality healthcare in the country, AT products handed out in camps or as a part of social service initiatives are often sub-standard and lead to poorer health outcomes.
“Disability, and provision of assistive products, is at the intersection of health, human rights and development priority. Three key challenges confront us – financing, designing and incorporating ATs into health systems. The health system’s responsibility in providing equitable access to AT, just as for essential medicines and vaccines, is increasingly being recognised and country-level plans need to be drawn up to fund and provide AT under the Universal Health Coverage. Until AT solutions are integrated with the existing primary healthcare packages the current top-down approach is not of many benefits,” says Rajib Dasgupta, Chairperson, JNU’s Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health.
The latest report – the Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) published on Monday – highlights the vast gap in access between low- and high-income countries. An analysis of 35 countries reveals that access varies from 3% in poorer nations to 90% in wealthy countries.
The report involves Indian contributors including Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava and Dasgupta.
People with mental health conditions and people with a gradual functional decline or loss of intrinsic capacity also benefit from assistive technology products.
The report also provides a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, raise awareness of the need, and implement inclusion policies to improve the lives of millions of people.
The report also notes the number of people in need of one or more assistive products is likely to rise to 3.5 billion by 2050, due to ageing populations and the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases across the world.
“Assistive technology is a life changer – it opens the door to education for children with impairments, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and an independent life of dignity for older persons,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Denying people access to these life-changing tools is not only an infringement of human rights, but it’s also economically shortsighted. We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology and give everyone a chance to live up to their potential.”





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