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Rehabilitation 2030: a call to action

In February, the World Health Organization (WHO) held a strategic summit in Geneva, which focused on rehabilitation. Attendees discussed and debated a call to action for health systems globally to respond to the need to prioritise rehabilitation in health policy, and to improve rehabilitation services to address the enormous unmet need, particularly in low and middle-income nations.


The WHO's summit in Geneva focused on rehabilitation.
The WHO's summit in Geneva focused on rehabilitation.

Some 200 individuals from across the world were invited by the WHO to attend to represent organisations or nations. Associate Professor Andrew Briggs was invited to attend, representing the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health (G-MUSC) and Curtin.

As G-MUSC Fellow in Global Musculoskeletal Health, Andrew’s role was to advocate for specific health service and system reform for people living with musculoskeletal health conditions who require rehabilitation services.

Individuals from high, middle and low-income settings shared experiences about how health systems were adapting to address the need for rehabilitation. In many parts of the world, the capacity to provide rehabilitation is limited or nonexistent, and fails to adequately address the needs of the population.

A global effort to build policy, system, workforce and data collection capacity is therefore needed, underpinned by context-relevant evidence.

The WHO now identifies rehabilitation as a central component of universal health, and fundamental to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.

The following 10 actions were agreed at the summit:

  1. Creating strong leadership and political support for rehabilitation at sub-national, national and global levels.
  2. Strengthening rehabilitation planning and implementation at national and sub-national levels.
  3. Improving integration of rehabilitation into the health sector to effectively and efficiently meet population needs.
  4. Incorporating rehabilitation in Universal Health Coverage.
  5. Building comprehensive rehabilitation service delivery models to progressively achieve equitable access to quality services, including assistive products, for all the population.
  6. Developing a strong multidisciplinary rehabilitation workforce that is suitable for country context, and promoting rehabilitation concepts across all health workforce education.
  7. Expanding financing for rehabilitation through appropriate mechanisms.
  8. Collecting information relevant to rehabilitation to enhance health information systems including system level rehabilitation data and information on functioning utilizing the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).
  9. Building research capacity and expanding the availability of robust evidence for rehabilitation, particularly in low and middle income settings.
  10. Establishing and strengthening networks and partnerships in rehabilitation, particularly between low-, middle- and high-income countries.

Associate Professor Andrew Briggs

School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science