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Many of us will need physical rehabilitation at some stage in our lives, following a disease, illness, injury or as we get older. It is estimated that one in three people – around 2.4 billion – are living with a health condition that would benefit from rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation is not a luxury, to be accessed by the few. It’s an essential health service. And yet, it is often overlooked, leaving many vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries, especially those affected by conflict, unable to receive vital rehabilitation services.
In response, Learning, Acting and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS) was created to strengthen health systems around the world so that they can address the growing need for physical rehabilitation across the lifespan. Funded by United States Agency for International Development USAID, ReLAB-HS will transform how marginalized people in low- and middle-income countries access rehabilitation, ensuring the right care is provided at the right time and in the right way, by supporting future leaders, health workers, building evidence and translating evidence and innovative methods into sustainable changes.
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Launched in late 2020, ReLAB-HS is a comprehensive five-year program that will respond to the escalating need for physical rehabilitation services in low and middle-income countries.
We will work across all levels of the health system, building technical, policy and research capacity; increasing political commitment; and inspiring leadership. ReLAB-HS will use new technology and support simple, low-cost service delivery models that expand access to rehabilitation in the home and community – where it is needed most.
Globally, about 2.4 billion people require physical rehabilitation. The need for rehabilitation extends across the entire lifespan: from children born with impairments, and young adults injured in conflicts, to older people living with chronic disease and disability. These needs are likely to rise in the future. Around the world, people are living longer, with the population aged 65 and over growing faster than all other age groups. Injuries are escalating from conflicts and emergencies, traffic accidents and rapid urbanization. The COVID-19 pandemic is further boosting demand for rehabilitation services.
ReLAB-HS will initially work in four countries: Burma, Pakistan, Uganda and Ukraine. These countries have been selected because they represent a range of health, human development and equity indicators, burden of disease, and conflict and disaster risks. All countries have experienced or are currently experiencing conflict as well as a complex set of conditions affecting health, healthcare and approaches to rehabilitation. These diverse health system conditions – including different health financing models, overall health system resourcing, adequacy of human resources, and varied progress in integrating rehabilitation into health systems – provide a solid basis for learning.
Responding to the growing need for rehabilitation around the world, particularly in countries torn apart by conflict, is not without its challenges. However, there are also considerable opportunities. These include developing innovative, cost-effective service delivery models at the primary care level; exploring the potential of new information technology; and investing in local infrastructure. Through this approach, ReLAB-HS will expand access to quality rehabilitation services in the community and home setting – improving health, restoring people’s independence and enhancing quality of life.
Discover and share open publications and resources that are relevant to rehabilitation professionals and other rehabilitation related health systems stakeholders across the globe.
ReLAB-HS is a uniquely talented international consortium made up of six partner organizations. Together, they have considerable expertise in health systems, innovation in rehabilitation service delivery and implementation science, gained from working in over 70 countries.
Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU). JH-IIRU, within the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, leads the ReLAB-HS consortium. The Research Unit identifies effective solutions to the growing burden of injuries in low- and middle-income populations, influences public policy and practice, and advances the field of injury prevention throughout the world. Since its creation in 2008, JH-IIRU has led cutting-edge research in global injury prevention and control. JH-IIRU is active in over 30 countries around the globe, implementing a coordinated strategy involving research, education and practice. In recognition of its growing role as a leader in injury prevention, the Unit was designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Injuries, Violence and Accident Prevention.
An independent charity, Humanity & Inclusion works in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Humanity & Inclusion works alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Their work comprises six areas: emergencies, explosive weapons, rehabilitation, health and prevention, inclusion, and disability rights. Since its creation in 1982, their work has benefitted several million people in more than 60 countries.
MiracleFeet aims to eliminate a leading cause of physical disability worldwide: clubfoot. MiracleFeet expands access to quality treatment for children born with clubfoot through partnerships with local healthcare providers in 29 low- and middle-income countries. The non-profit organization brings the low-cost, non-surgical standard of care – provided in advanced health systems – to low-income countries. MiracleFeet trains new providers in basic and advanced skills and develops regional teams of qualified trainers who can build workforce capacity in their own countries: an approach that reduces costs and increases sustainable access to treatment.
For over 20 years, Momentum Wheels for Humanity has increased access to mobility and improved the quality of life for children, teenagers and adults with physical disabilities in low- and middle-income countries. In total, Momentum Wheels for Humanity has provided more than 100,000 wheelchairs. Its mission is to promote greater inclusion for people with disabilities globally, through mobility, therapy, advocacy and empowerment. The not-for-profit organization aims to build sustainable, community-based systems that provide effective, long-term support for people with mobility impairments. Momentum Wheels for Humanity builds rehabilitation services within health systems by providing training, capacity building and technical assistance; developing policy and standards; and supplying and distributing wheelchairs and other life-changing assistive technology.
The Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne, is the consortium co-lead. A hub of global health expertise for more than 20 years, the Institute works to improve the public health and future of vulnerable communities through global health research, education and inclusive development. The Institute establishes the evidence base for strengthening health systems and extending universal health coverage to promote health and wellbeing across the region’s diverse communities. The Nossal Institute supports regional and global partners by supporting future leaders, health workers, building evidence and translating evidence and innovative methods into sustainable changes.
Physiopedia’s mission is to improve global health through universal access to rehabilitation knowledge. The registered charity educates rehabilitation professionals all over the world, builds community, and advocates for rehabilitation. Physiopedia provides a free evidence-based knowledge resource that is the top rehabilitation website in the world and is used by over 4 million people every month. Physiopedia also delivers online education and professional development opportunities to support the knowledge development of rehabilitation professionals globally, partnering with over 50 rehabilitation organisations and academic institutions in their workforce development activities.