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Why does disability matter globally?

Provides an overview of the global magnitude of disabilty
YETNEBERSH NIGUSSIE: One billion persons– that means one seventh of the global population– is affected by disability. Secondly, disability is about society. It’s about the social constructs. So if it’s about society, it should matter globally. Last but not least, disability is also about removing barriers and is about opening access to services for everyone. So disability matters, both as a societal issue, as well as also, a human rights issue.
ISLAY: Yetnebersh has just given us an important introduction, as to why disability matters globally. Let’s now explore this in a little more detail so that we can understand the global magnitude of disability, and how disability relates to age, gender, and poverty across the world. In epidemiology, the word magnitude is used to describe how common something is. Thinking of magnitude can be useful in trying to understand how many people around the world experience disability. Let’s imagine that these 100 stick figures represent the global population, which is currently estimated to be about seven and a half billion people. As an example, what do you think the magnitude of diabetes might be globally?
Well, our most recent estimate suggests that across the world, 8.8% of the population has diabetes. This means just under one in 10 people or a little over half a billion people worldwide. As another example, you might know that China and India are currently the most populous countries in the world.
Just over 17% of the world’s population– some 1.3 billion people– currently live in India. So what do you think the global magnitude of disability might be in comparison? More or less, than the amount of people with diabetes or the amount of people living in India?
The World Health Organisation estimates that 15.6% of the global population has a disability. This is almost the same amount as all the people living in India, double the amount with diabetes, and is the equivalent of over one billion people worldwide.
Disability is slightly more common in women than in men. And is estimated at 19.2% of women and 12% of men have a disability. Disability also increases exponentially by age. Almost 40% of adults age 60 and above, have a disability worldwide, compared to less than 5% of children under 18.
Disability is also much more common in low and middle income countries. In fact, 80% of people with disabilities are believed to live in low and middle income countries, compared to just 20% in high income countries. Even within these countries, it’s also more common in people who are poor.
So why is disability so much more common amongst people who are poor? Well, there are a number of reasons, and we will explore these in a lot more detail over the next few weeks. However, to give you an overview, people who are poor face many risk factors that can negatively affect their physical or mental health. These can include greater risk of diseases with long-term outcomes, such as trachoma, which can cause blindness or greater chance of contracting non-communicable diseases, like cardiovascular disease. Poverty can, therefore, increase the risk of disability.
People who are poor may also face difficulties in accessing basic health and rehabilitative services, such as immunizations against preventable diseases that can lead to disability, or services that limit the risk of birth difficulties. They may also face environmental risks, such as being more likely to be involved in accidents and having worse access to clean water, which again, may heighten their risk of disability. In addition, people with disabilities may be at risk of becoming poorer because of the stigma and barriers related to having a disability, that may prevent them from accessing paid work or education.
Now let’s move on to our next step and find out a little bit more about why disability matters from a more personal perspective and in terms of human rights.

This step is introduced by Yetnebersh Nigussie, Senior Inclusion Advisor for disability NGO Light for the World. Following this introduction, Dr Islay Mactaggart (LSHTM) shares some key global data on how common disability is, and how disability relates to age, gender and poverty across the world.

In her introduction, Yetnebersh summarises some of the core arguments as to why thinking about disability is of global importance, and why we should all promote disability inclusion across our personal and professional lives.

Dr. Mactaggart then explores some of the global statistics on disability, providing sources and looking at differences in the numbers of people living with disabilities across age groups, gender, and poverty level. She also starts to explain why the relationship between disability and poverty exists, which is then discussed in more detail as the course goes on.

Enjoy learning about why disability matters globally, and let us know in the comments whether any of the information here surprised you.

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Global Health and Disability

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