Improving access to assistive technologies: challenges and solutions in low- and middle-income countries. (WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health | September 2018)
(2018; 6 pages)


Assistive technologies can benefit a wide range of people, including those with disabilities; those with age-related frailties; those affected by noncommunicable diseases; and those requiring rehabilitation. Access to these technologies is limited in low- and middle-income countries but the already-high need will inevitably rise further because of demographic and epidemiological transitions. Four key gaps contribute to limited access. First, although need is high, demand is low, not least because of widespread lack of awareness among potential beneficiaries, their caregivers, and their health-care providers. Second, product designs are insufficiently informed by users’ and caregivers’ preferences and environments, and transfer of technologies to low-resource settings is limited. Third, barriers to supply include low production quality, financial constraints and a scarcity of trained personnel. Fourth, there is a dearth of high-quality evidence on the effectiveness of different types of technology. Adoption of the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA71.8 in 2018 marked convergence of, commitment to and strengthening of efforts to close these gaps and improve access to assistive devices. The Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology workplan identifies four overarching, interlinked solutions for countries to improve access. First, a national policy framework for assistive technology is needed. Second, product development should be encouraged through incentive schemes that support and promote affordable assistive products. Third, capacity-building of personnel is needed, through undergraduate and in-service training. Fourth, provision needs to be enhanced, especially through integration of services with the health system. These actions need to be underpinned by government leadership, a multisectoral approach and adequate funding.

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