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Overview of the links between disability and health

Provides overview of links between health and disability
MYROSLAVA TATARYN: Our second activity this week focuses on why people with disabilities might experience poor health and why people with poor health might be at greater risk of disability. On the one hand, people with disabilities are sometimes at higher risk of poor health because of the underlying health condition linked to their disability. For example, disability related to spinal cord injury may increase the risk of pressure sores or urinary tract infections. Or a person who can’t see because of diabetic retinopathy– a complication related to diabetes– may also be at increased risk of nerve damage or kidney damage because of their diabetes. People with disabilities are also often at risk of poorer general health than people without disabilities.
A recent study by our group found that children with disabilities across 30 countries were ill more often than children without disabilities, including being more likely to acquire malaria or respiratory tract infections. Often, this is due to barriers that people with disabilities face in accessing health care, including stigma, physical inaccessibility, lack of transport, or limited service availability. On the other hand, people who have poor health have a higher chance of becoming disabled for a number of reasons. Trauma and injury– for example, limb amputation following an accident– can lead to both short-term ill health and long-term disability. Many communicable diseases can have long-term health outcomes. For example, leprosy can affect limb use, and trachoma and onchocerciasis can cause blindness.
Similarly, many non-communicable diseases– such as cardiovascular disorders and diabetes– can also lead to disability, as we discussed earlier. It is also important to understand the relationship between health, disability, and poverty. People who are poor are more likely to experience trauma and injury and have higher risk of acquiring both communicable and non-communicable diseases in many settings. They are also less likely to be able to access health care when they need it once they are sick or injured. This is partly why people who are poor are more likely to become disabled. Also, people with health problems or disabilities spend more money to access services, which can make them poorer– creating a downward spiral.
For the rest of this week, we’ll hear from experts in the area of disability and health and reflect on the challenges and solutions for breaking cycles of ill health, disability, and poverty in more detail.

In this first step of our second activity this week, Myroslava Tatayrn (Lead educator) provides an overview of the links between disability and health. She will describe why people with disabilities may be at higher risk of poorer health, before we continue to hear from experts in the area of disability and health in more detail.

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Global Health and Disability

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