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Consultation on WHO European Framework for action to achieve the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities 2022–2030

WHO European Framework

On 10th May, to gain input from organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), the World Health Organisation (WHO) held a consultation on its upcoming WHO European Framework for action to achieve the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities 2022–2030 (Framework for action). The new Framework for action is being developed in response to the recognised need for disability-inclusive healthcare systems in the WHO European region. The aim is to ensure that by 2030, rights of persons with disabilities are considered in all healthcare planning, delivery, and leadership.It will be a practical guidance document to support WHO Member States – policymakers, decision-makers, healthcare services, and DPOs – to eliminate discrimination based on disability in the healthcare sector.

A presentation was given on how the Framework for action can strategically support countries to achieve the objectives. It was highlighted that there are several barriers to persons with disabilities when accessing healthcare services, such as attitudinal, or environmental. The importance of close collaboration between stakeholders, such as healthcare services and DPOs, to remove these barriers was stressed. Accordingly, WHO will form partnerships and alliances with various stakeholders such as DPOs and healthcare services, to share knowledge and best practices as well as to amplify the voices of persons with disabilities.

During the consultation, Ms Catherine Naughton, Director of the European Disability Forum (EDF), highlighted two overlapping issues – the importance of access to healthcare, and involving persons with disabilities in the decision-making process.

Quality healthcare is a right – the rights of persons with disabilities within this sphere include accessibility, mobility, informed consent, and meaningful participation, to name a few. To ensure healthcare services and policies are disability-inclusive they need to be available, affordable, accessible to persons with disabilities, relevant, and appropriate. However, persons with disabilities must be involved in the decision-making processes to improve the quality of health care. The consultation was a good opportunity and example of upfront consultation.

A further presentation was given on the objectives of the Framework for action and proposed strategic priorities and actions to achieve the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities. There are three documents on this theme being produced by WHO:

  • The working document – will include the Framework for action which will list disability-inclusive actions, and the promotion of health and well-being of persons with disabilities of all ages. It will be operationalised through targets, measures, and specific actions for all stakeholders involved including OPDs, national governments and healthcare services. It will also incorporate plans for implementation. It will outline the technical knowledge and capacity building support to be provided by WHO Europe to Member States. This document will be presented on 13th Sept 2022, 11-12pm CET.
  • The Draft Resolution – sets out specific actions to be taken by Member States. It will address the removal of barriers to ensure equitable access to health information and programmes, including rehabilitation. The Resolution will be a call for action for WHO European region too and will align with UNCRPD.
  • The Information Document – will contain further details relevant to the Working Document for the consideration of the governing bodies. It will describe the targets and measurable actions to be taken. It also includes the following 4 objectives:
    • Objective 1 – to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to timely, relevant, affordable and good quality health care.
    • Objective 2 – to promote the health and well-being of persons with disabilities and to implement the intersectoral and multisectoral actions.
    • Objective 3 – to aim at ensuring that all health policies and programming, including public health emergencies are disability-inclusive.
    • Objective 4 – to build an evidence base on disability and health. To collect disability-disaggregated data on health.

Article 25 of the UNCRPD outlines the legal obligation of state parties to protect persons with disabilities’ right to health without discrimination. However, deaf persons face several barriers when exercising their right to accessibility in healthcare. For instance, the main being, the lack of accessibility in national sign languages, and the lack of awareness and training for healthcare professionals. Accordingly, it is important that EUD is aware of the development of this Framework for action, in order to input into the consultation process as an EU level DPO but also, to inform members about it. The members will then be able to provide EUD with feedback and it can, therefore, be ensured that this information is accounted for in the process of developing the Framework for action.

The EU Framework for Action will be launched at the 72nd Session of the Regional Committee for Europe on 12-14th September 2022.

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