Pakistan sponsored resolution on Assistive Technologies approved unanimously by United Nations World Health Assembly

Islamabad, June 04, 2018 (PPI-OT): A Pakistan sponsored resolution on improving access to Assistive Technology for the disabled, elderly and those with Non-Communicable diseases was approved unanimously in United Nations Geneva by the World Health Assembly. Alongside Pakistan thirty one countries proposed the resolution which was considered in the first stage by the WHO Executive Board in its meeting held in January, 2018. Upon recommendation of the Executive Board the resolution was tabled before the World Health Assembly.

Pakistan presented the outline and objectives of the resolution. Thereafter 35 countries from different regions of WHO participated in debate on the resolution and highlighted the critical need to ensure both access and quality of assistive devices. WHO was requested to support countries in implementation of progress for access to assistive technologies. The resolution considers that one billion people need assistive technology and that, as the global population ages and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases increases, this figure will rise to more than two billion by 2050.

Assistive technology enables and promotes the inclusion, participation and engagement of persons with disabilities, ageing populations and people with co-morbidities in the family, community and all areas of society, including the political, economic and social spheres. 90 percent of those who need assistive technology do not have access to it, thereby having a significant adverse impact on the education, livelihood, health and well-being of individuals, and on families, communities and societies.

The resolution recognizes that the inclusion of assistive technology, in line with countries’ national priority and context, into health systems is essential for realizing progress towards the SDG targets relating to universal health coverage. Under the resolution the 194 countries members of the WHO have been urged to develop, implement and strengthen policies and programmes, as appropriate, to improve access to assistive technology within universal health and/or social services coverage; to ensure that adequate and trained human resources for the provision and maintenance of assistive products are available at all levels of health and social service delivery; to ensure that assistive technology users and their caregivers have access to the most appropriate assistive products and use them safely and effectively; where appropriate, based on national needs and context, develop a national list of priority assistive products that are affordable and cost-effective and meet minimum quality and safety standards, drawing on WHO’s priority assistive products list; and among others to promote or invest in research, development, innovation and product design in order to make existing assistive products affordable, and also to develop a new generation of products including high-end or advanced assistive technology, taking advantage of universal design and new evidence-based technologies, in partnership with academia, civil society organizations, in particular with persons with disabilities and older persons and their representative organizations, and the private sector, as appropriate; In 2021 WHO will prepare a global report on effective access to assistive technology in the context of an integrated approach, based on the best available scientific evidence and international experience.

A report on progress achieved in the implementation of resolution by nations of the world would be submitted to the World Health Assembly in 2022. A spokesperson of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said the passage of the resolution was a major success for Pakistan. We have been working hard on this for over two years and endorsement by the global community has enhanced the country’s stature besides giving hope to the one billion people who need assistive devices across the globe.

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