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Should disability-inclusive health be a priority in low-income countries? A case-study from Zimbabwe.

Authors
  • Kuper, Hannah1
  • Smythe, Tracey1
  • Kujinga, Tapiwa2
  • Chivandire, Greaterman3
  • Rusakaniko, Simbarashe4
  • 1 International Centre for Evidence in Disability, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
  • 2 Pan-African Treatment Access Movement, Harare, Zimbabwe. , (Zimbabwe)
  • 3 Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe. , (Zimbabwe)
  • 4 Family Medicine, Global and Public Health Unit, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe. , (Zimbabwe)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Global Health Action
Publisher
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
Dec 31, 2022
Volume
15
Issue
1
Pages
2032929–2032929
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2022.2032929
PMID: 35289734
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

The National Disability Policy was launched in Zimbabwe in June 2021 and includes a range of commitments for the provision of disability-inclusive health services and rehabilitation. Fulfilment of these pledges is important, as at least 7% of the population have disabilities, and people with disabilities face greater challenges accessing healthcare services and experience worse health outcomes. However, it will require financial investment which is challenging as the needs of people with disabilities are set against a background of widespread health systems failures in Zimbabwe, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Zimbabwe currently faces an epidemic of TB and HIV and a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with a lack of investment, healthcare staff or infrastructure to provide the necessary care. Urgent action is therefore needed to strengthen the health system and 'build back better' after both the pandemic and the regime change. The Zimbabwean government may face the dilemma, common in many low-resource settings, of whether to focus on disability or to wait until the health system has been strengthened for the majority. This paper proposed four complementary arguments why it is important to focus on people with disabilities. First, this focus respects the rights of people with disabilities, including those specified in the new National Disability Policy. Second, it will be challenging to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including those on health and other global health targets, without including people with disabilities. Third, there is a growing rationale that disability-inclusive health systems will work better for all, and fourth, that they will create cost savings. Everyone will therefore benefit when the health systems are designed for inclusion. In conclusion, a focus on disability may help to strengthen health systems for all as well as helping to achieve human rights and global development goals.

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