Disability in Primary Health Care
DISABILITY IN PRIMARY HEALTH CARE
Disability in primary health care is particularly important as understanding primary health care (PHC) access for people with disabilities can help inform policies, clinical practices, and future research in community settings.
What is a disability?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to take part in certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).
There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person’s: Vision, Movement, Thinking, Remembering, Learning, Communicating, Hearing, Mental health, Social relationships
The physical or mental impairment experienced by a disabled person has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
According to the World Health Organization, disability has three dimensions:
Impairment in a person’s body structure or function, or mental functioning; examples of impairments include loss of a limb, loss of vision, or memory loss.
Activity limitation, such as difficulty seeing, hearing, walking, or problem-solving.
Participation restrictions in normal daily activities, such as working, engaging in social and recreational activities, and obtaining health care and preventive services.
Disability and Primary Health Care
Primary health care is a whole-of-society approach that includes health promotion, seeks to prevent injuries and diseases, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care. It’s about more than delivering health care services.
Primary health care is about creating the conditions that help people to become and stay healthy and well. It’s also about extending the reach of health care providers into communities.
Social Model of Disability
The Social Model of Disability states that the poverty, disadvantage, and social exclusion experienced by many disabled people is not the inevitable result of their impairments or medical conditions, but rather stems from attitudinal and environmental barriers within society.
As highlighted by several studies, this view recognises that disabled people have impairments but, unlike the medical model of disability, maintains that the exclusion they experience is caused by not only their society but also the lack of relevant knowledge, education and the poor attitudes of students and health care professionals towards adults and children with disabilities (Kritsotakis G, 2017; Matziou V, 2009; Velonakis VS, 2015).
Barriers to accessing primary healthcare services for people with disabilities
Access to healthcare contributes to the attainment of health and is a right that is fundamental to humans. People with disabilities are believed to experience widespread poor access to healthcare services, due to the absence of implemented policy in the area of primary health and disability, inaccessible environments, discriminatory belief systems, and attitudes.
Three major barriers:
- Cultural beliefs or attitudinal barriers,
- Information barriers, and
- Practical or logistical barriers.
DISABILITY IN PRIMARY HEALTH CARE
Role of Physiotherapy in supporting people with disability
Physiotherapy uses evidence-based techniques to improve a person’s health and wellbeing. Physiotherapy is used to assess treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders.
It can be a common misconception that physiotherapy is useful only to people who are recovering from an illness or injury. However, physiotherapy is ideal for supporting people with disabilities to participate in physical activities that they’re interested in. Traditionally, physiotherapists have supported people with disabilities by helping them overcome their mobility challenges.
People diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, or who have psychosocial or intellectual disabilities can benefit from physiotherapy. The possibilities are endless, but supporting a child with autism to ride a bike, for example, can positively impact their ability to socialise, make friends and set up healthy exercise practices for life and may mean they have a chance of meeting the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 150 mins of moderate physical activity per week.
This then improves their health, while enabling them to make friends and increase their safety as people in their local community get to know and look out for them.
Conclusion: DISABILITY IN PRIMARY HEALTH CARE
To achieve full health coverage at the acceptable quality for people with disabilities, and their inclusion in society, starting with primary healthcare, it is necessary for healthcare stakeholders, including rehabilitation professionals, to consider the combined and cumulative effects of the various barriers to healthcare on people with disabilities, their carers, and their families and develop an understanding of how healthcare decisions are made by people with disabilities at the personal, household and the society level.
It is only then that more nuanced and effective interventions to improve access to primary healthcare, systematically addressing barriers, can be designed and effectively implemented.
Reformed policies, health information provided in accessible formats, and community health education are all important to aid the inclusiveness of persons with disabilities in society.
There is also the need to provide in-service and collaborative training to students, health care professionals, formal and informal supporters, and disabled people themselves on how to enhance approach, effective communication skills, and therapy models for persons with disabilities.