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394M people across Europe, Central Asia need rehabilitation care: WHO

394M people across Europe, Central Asia need rehabilitation care: WHO
‘It’s staggering that nearly half of region’s population need some form of rehabilitation,’ says WHO Europe director

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) - Some 394 million people in Europe and Central Asia live with a health condition that needs rehabilitation care, said the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe.

In a report, WHO Europe said that a rapidly aging population, a significant increase in the number of people living with chronic conditions, and a lack of awareness about the benefits of rehabilitation are among the main drivers of this unmet need across Europe and Central Asia.

“It’s staggering that nearly half of the region’s population need some form of rehabilitation,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

“If no action is taken, countries risk restricting people’s opportunities and limiting economic productivity because so many are simply unable to contribute to society fully,” Kluge added.

He said that rehabilitation is an essential health service that should be available to all who need it.

The report shows that most people requiring these services are not getting the care they need, leading to an estimated 49 million years of healthy lives lost because of a health condition requiring rehabilitation.

- Access to rehabilitation

Some key barriers to people’s access to rehabilitation include little awareness of what rehabilitation is, how it works and its benefits, and misconceptions about affordability.

Crucially, a severe shortage of rehabilitation professionals stops people in some parts of the Europe Region from getting the rehabilitation care they need.

The report highlights that there are 12 times fewer physiotherapists, 141 times fewer occupational therapists, and six times fewer prosthetics and orthotics professionals in middle-income countries than in higher-income ones.

In the Europe Region as a whole, some of the most common conditions that drive the need for rehabilitation include low back pain, fractures, hearing and vision loss, stroke, and dementia.

As these conditions affect people’s lives, including their ability to work, countries face millions of dollars in costs due to a lack of economic productivity and rising poverty and joblessness.

WHO Europe said that progress has been made recently to ensure rehabilitation is more readily available to people who need it. In some countries, it is now available in emergency settings, and there are concrete actions to support people with long-term care.

In addition, long COVID has shone a spotlight on rehabilitation, as countries are now recognizing how severe the condition is and the vital role that rehabilitation services can play in supporting people living with long COVID, said WHO.

“Most of us will require rehabilitation at some point in our lives or know someone very close to us who does,” Kluge said.

source: News Feed
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