Academic aiming to bridge the gap worldwide for people in need of basic assistive products

An academic specialising in global health has attended a World Health Organisation (WHO) summit in Geneva to discuss how simple assistive products such as hearing aids and wheelchairs can be delivered to people who need them most.

Alice Inman, Programme Lead for MSc Global and Remote Healthcare in Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD), recently represented the World Confederation of Physical Therapists (WCPT) at the summit on the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) initiative. 

GATE is a WHO leadership area for bridging the gap of under-provision of assistive products to those that need them but cannot access them, and the summit brought together 150 top global researchers, innovators and educators who are carrying out research or offering training programmes related to assistive technology policy, products, personnel, provision and use. 

Alice, a physiotherapist with extensive clinical experience in the UK as well as low and middle income countries such as Nepal and Kenya explained why the work was important: 

“Imagine if your independence could be maintained by something as simple as a basic wheelchair, but you had no way of getting one: no way of getting to school, no way of getting to the shops.” she said. “That’s what disability, including through ageing is like for millions of people worldwide, and we are looking to change it.

“The global population in need is estimated to be one billion today and likely to be two billion by 2050 due to the ageing global population and the rise in the prevalence of long term diseases and associated functional decline. It is thought that only 10 per cent of the global population have access to the assistive devices they need. 

“Almost all of us will use at least one assistive product in our lifetime, such as a walking stick or hearing aid, to maximise our function and maintain independence as we age – and we want everyone who needs one to be able to access one easily and affordably.”

WHO has released a Priority Assistive Products Lists, which details the 50 essential products people should be able to access to live a healthy, productive and dignified life.

The list varies across five domains of mobility, vision, hearing, communication and environment, and includes spectacles, wheelchairs, hearing aids, walking sticks, pill organisers and communication aids.

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