Landmark resolution on strengthening rehabilitation in health systems

The World Health Assembly endorsed the historic resolution on strengthening rehabilitation in health systems, which was developed under the leadership of Israel and cosponsored by 20 countries. The resolution calls for expanding and integrating rehabilitation in health systems as part of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), emphasizing the importance of rehabilitation in primary care and as part of emergency preparedness and response.

Thirty-six speakers, including 30 delegates from Member States, 5 non-State actors (NSAs) and the WHO Secretariat took the floor during the discussion. Four of the Member States’ interventions were on behalf of consortiums of countries from the African Region, Eastern Mediterranean Region, European Union, and cosponsoring countries. A further 6 NSAs provided written statements in support of the resolution.

Member States underscored the major unmet need for rehabilitation from a range of health conditions including from communicable and noncommunicable diseases and injuries. The importance of rehabilitation as a strategy for healthy ageing was noted. There was an overwhelming emphasis that rehabilitation should be available to the whole population and should be integrated into health planning and implementation.

Rehabilitation is an important enabler for quality of life and participation in the community. Member States stressed the need to build commitment for rehabilitation services through integration within national health plans and policies, inter-ministerial and intersectoral work and with meaningful participation of rehabilitation users.

There was repeated recognition of the tools that have been developed to strengthen rehabilitation by the WHO Secretariat but they were also concerns that these tools are not always used, prioritized and funded by countries. During the discussion, Member States stressed the need to include rehabilitation as part of emergency preparedness and response mechanisms.

Delegates reinforced the importance of assistive technology as a key strategy to ensure strong and responsive rehabilitation systems and services. Similar to rehabilitation, the tools developed for assistive technology strengthening by the WHO Secretariat were recognized to have been fundamental in strengthening the sector. In addition, Member States noted the importance of specific areas of rehabilitation including psychological help and recovery from sexual violence and cancer care.

Several innovative approaches and specific recommendations were proposed by Member States. Of particular note, the approach by Namibia to provide financial incentives for people taking up studies in the rehabilitation field, thereby addressing the crucial issue of workforce limitations and development of quantitative indicators noted by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Delegates acknowledged WHO’s important role in strengthening rehabilitation in health systems and requested WHO to develop feasible targets and indicators; develop a baseline report on rehabilitation in health systems by 2026; support implementation of Rehabilitation 2030 including the implementation of technical guidance and resources; ensure appropriate resources are allocated at its headquarters, regional and local levels; and integrate rehabilitation and assistive technology in its emergency medical teams including addressing the long-term rehabilitation needs of people affected by emergencies.

Note: The list of WHO Member States and non-State actors that made interventions are as follows:

Member States: Sweden (on behalf of EU and candidate countries), Nigeria (on behalf of AFRO countries), Oman (on behalf of EMRO countries), Slovakia (on behalf of cosponsoring countries), Bahrain, Norway, Bahamas, Thailand, Solomon Islands, Russian Federation, Namibia, Nepal, Philippines, Japan, Kenya, Australia, Jamaica, India, Malaysia, China, United States of America, Brazil, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Colombia, Argentina, Türkiye, South Africa, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Paraguay.

Non-State actors who provided verbal statements: Handicap International Federation, World Heart Federation, Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, NCD Alliance, International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care.

Non-state actors who submitted written statements: CBM Christoffel Blindenmission Christian Blind Mission e.V., International Psycho-Oncology Society, International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind/Sightsavers, World Confederation for Physical Therapy, World Federation of Occupational Therapists.

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