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June 2, 2016

Pakistan to lead preparation of draft resolution on assistive products

Islamabad

June 2, 2016

Resolution likely to be included as agenda item in WHO executive board meeting;
Pakistan selected as pilot country for launch of assistive technology programme

Islamabad 

Following its recent initiative at the World Health Assembly (WHA), where Pakistan launched the priority Assistive Products List (APL) for persons with disabilities, ageing population, and people suffering from non-communicable diseases and muscular skeletal disorders, the country has now been asked to draft, in consultation with WHO member states, a resolution on the subject for consideration in the rolling agenda of the next executive board meeting of the WHO. 

Pakistan has also been selected as a pilot country for launch of the Assistive Technology Programme, ‘The News’ learnt on good authority here on Wednesday.

Should the resolution eventually be passed after being discussed as an agenda item in the next meeting of the WHO executive board, it will then be tabled as a resolution in the next WHA. If approved, it will become binding for all member states of the WHO to guarantee free provision of the 50 assistive products included in the APL to their intended beneficiaries.

The APL includes hearing aids, wheelchairs, canes and sticks, communication aids, spectacles, artificial limbs, fall detectors, pill organizers, memory aids, hand rails and grab bars, magnifiers, personal digital assistants, pressure relief cushions and mattresses, tricycles, and other essential items for older people and people with disabilities. The objective it to help these persons lead healthy, productive and connected lives. The APL is intended to be a catalyst in promoting access to assistive technology for everyone, everywhere.

“Pakistan has taken many firsts regarding disabilities in the 69th WHA. For the first time, a side meeting on disability was organized where our health leadership launched the APL. For the first time again, the WHO executive board has included the subject of disability as an agenda item; this too was an initiative of Pakistan,” stated Dr. Maryam Mallick, technical advisor on disabilities and rehabilitation at WHO Pakistan.

Dr. Maryam further shared that Pakistan will also be hosting the first Regional Consultation on Assistive Technology, with 22 countries participating. Since the country has been selected as a pilot country for launch of the Assistive Technology Programme, it will hold national, provincial and regional consultations on the subject, along with carrying out a need assessment on assistive technology, ahead of the next WHA.

When asked, Dr. Maryam shared that the assistive technology programme in Pakistan is most likely to be launched from the platform of the Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance Scheme.

According to WHO estimates, more than 1 billion people need one or more assistive products today. With a global ageing population and rise in non-communicable diseases, this number will rise beyond 2 billion by 2050, with many older people needing two or more products as they age.

However, only 1 in 10 people in need currently have access to these devices, largely due to high costs, limited availability, inadequate financing, and lack of awareness and suitably trained personnel. This results in many missed opportunities for people to contribute to society – for younger people to access education and work, and for older people to continue to live healthy, independent lives in their own homes.

The APL, which has taken over a year to develop, is the first stage of implementing a global commitment to improve access to assistive products – the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE). It includes 50 priority assistive products, selected on the basis of widespread need and potential impact. The APL will support member states to fulfil their commitment to improve access to assistive products as mandated under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

People who most need assistive technology include older people, people with disabilities, people with non-communicable diseases, people with mental health conditions including dementia and autism, and people with gradual functional decline.

Assistive products are essential tools to compensate for impairment or a loss of intrinsic capacity; reduce the consequences of gradual functional decline; help minimize the need for caregivers; prevent primary and secondary health conditions; and lower health and welfare costs.

Access to assistive products is often the first step towards getting out of bed and out of one’s house; accessing education, work and employment; escaping from poverty and hunger; greater mobility, freedom and independence, inclusion and participation; and lead a dignified life.