Resolution to improve Access to Assistive Technology adopted at WHA
Tuesday 29 May 2018
ISPO is delighted to report that during the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), which took place between 20-26 May 2018 in Geneva, the long-awaited Resolution on Improving Access to Assistive Technology has been unanimously approved.
On 25th May 2018, 194 countries adopted a Resolution which calls upon Member States to develop, implement and strengthen policies and programmes to improve access to assistive technology (AT) within universal health coverage. Furthermore, the Resolution, led by Pakistan, requests the World Health Organization (WHO) to prepare a global report by 2021 on actual access to AT around the world. ISPO has been a supporting partner in the long road to achieve this Resolution, and congratulates the WHO on this success.
The Resolution is a next important step to improve access to assistive technologies, recalling on the Member States commitment under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure access to quality assistive technology at an affordable cost (Article 20). It furthermore recalls upon the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its ultimate aim of “leaving no one behind”, and recognizes that the inclusion of assistive technology into health systems is essential for realizing progress towards the targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relating to universal health coverage.
In addition to strengthen policies and programmes to improve access to assistive technology, the Resolution urges Member States to ensure the availability of adequately trained human resources necessary for the provision and maintenance of assistive products, ensure the quality and safety of assistive technology, develop national lists of priority assistive products, promote research and development of new products, encourage international cooperation regarding manufacturing and procurement and to invest in barrier-free environments so that all people who need assistive technology can make optimum use of it.
It also requests the WHO to prepare a global report on effective access to assistive technology in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders by 2021, with the possibility to establish an Expert Advisory Group for this purpose. Progress in the implementation of the resolution shall be reported to the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly, and thereafter every four years until 2030.
In 2014 the WHO established the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) –to address the gap between the need for and provision of AT. Moreover, in 2016 a Priority Assistive Products List was developed, and more recently the global Standards for Prosthetics & Orthotics Service Provision was launched.
The WHO currently estimates that worldwide only 1 out of 10 people in need of assistive devices and technologies actually has access to them; and this figure falls to as low as 5% in many low- and middle-income countries. These alarming numbers are due to high costs of imported devices, and a dire scarcity of P&O and rehabilitation professionals trained to manage the provision of such devices and technologies. With the ageing of population and the rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the WHO estimates expect the current number of around one billion people in need of one or more assistive products to double by 2050.