People's Stories Equality

Health inequities lead to diminished life expectancy for many persons with disabilities
by World Health Organization (WHO)
Dec. 2022
A new report by the World Health Organization shows evidence of a higher risk of premature death and illness among many persons with disabilities compared to others in the society.
The Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities shows that because of the systemic and persistent health inequities, many persons with disabilities face the risk of dying much earlier—even up to 20 years earlier—than persons without disabilities.
They have an increased risk of developing chronic conditions, with up to double the risk of asthma, depression, diabetes, obesity, oral diseases, and stroke. Many of the differences in health outcomes cannot be explained by the underlying health condition or impairment, but by avoidable, unfair and unjust factors.
Launched ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the report shows the number of people with significant disabilities worldwide has risen to 1.3 billion (or 1 in 6 people). This number reinforces the importance of achieving full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and embedding the principles of inclusion, accessibility and non-discrimination in the health sector.
The report stresses the need for urgent action to address the vast inequities in health caused by unjust and unfair factors within health systems. These factors—which account for many of the differences in health outcomes between persons with and without disabilities—could take the form of:
Negative attitudes of healthcare providers, health information in formats that cannot be understood, or difficulties accessing a health centre due to the physical environment, lack of transport or financial barriers.
“Health systems should be alleviating the challenges that people with disabilities face, not adding to them,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“This report shines a light on the inequities that people with disabilities face in trying to access the care they need. WHO is committed to supporting countries with the guidance and tools they need to ensure all people with disabilities have access to quality health services.”
With an estimated 80% of persons with disabilities living in low- and middle-income countries where health services are limited, addressing health inequities could be challenging. Yet even with limited resources, much can be achieved.
Recognizing that everyone has the same right to the highest attainable standard of health, the report provides important economic analysis of adopting a disability-inclusive approach. It shows investing in a disability-inclusive health sector is cost-effective.
The report outlines 40 actions across the health sector for governments to take, drawing on the latest evidence from academic studies as well as consultations with countries and civil society, including organizations representing persons with disabilities.
Ensuring health equity for persons with disabilities will also have wider benefits and can advance global health priorities in a number of ways.
Health equity for all is critical towards achieving universal health coverage; inclusive public health interventions that are administered equitably across different sectors can contribute to healthier populations; and advancing health equity for persons with disabilities is a central component in all efforts to protect everyone in health emergencies.
“Addressing health inequities for persons with disabilities benefits everyone,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Diseases. “Older persons, people with noncommunicable diseases, migrants and refugees, or other frequently unreached populations, can benefit from approaches that target the persistent challenges to disability inclusion in the health sector.”
“We urge governments, health partners and civil society to ensure all health sector actions are inclusive of persons with disabilities so that they can enjoy their right to the highest standard of health.”

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Everyone has the right to be treated with Dignity
by OHCHR, International Movement ATD Fourth World
Nov. 2022
Banning discrimination on grounds of socioeconomic disadvantage, report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
“Povertyism” – negative attitudes and behaviours towards people living in poverty – is as pervasive, toxic and harmful as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination and should be treated as such, according to a new report published by the UN expert on poverty.
“People are stereotyped and discriminated against purely because they are poor. This is frankly sickening and a stain on our society,” UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, told the UN General Assembly as it met for its 77th session in New York.
“As the global rise in energy and food prices throws millions more into poverty, they must be protected not just from the horrors of poverty, but also from the humiliation and exclusion caused by the scourge of povertyism,” De Schutter said.
The Special Rapporteur called on governments to urgently review their anti-discrimination laws, as well as consider “pro-poor” affirmative action, to ensure povertyism is wiped out.
“The dangerously misplaced belief that people living in poverty are to blame for their condition, and therefore somehow socially inferior, has a firm grip on society and will not disappear on its own,” De Schutter said.
“It is high time the law intervened to ban discrimination on grounds of socio-economic status, as many countries have already done with race, sex, age or disability.”
The report finds that povertyism has become firmly entrenched in public and private institutions, largely because decision-making positions tend to be held by those from higher-income backgrounds, skewing the system against people in poverty.
It details cases where children from low-income families have been refused access to certain schools, employers have judged CVs more harshly when the address suggests the person lives in poverty, and landlords have refused to rent apartments to tenants receiving social benefits. Even judges have been found to hand out harsher sentences based on anti-poor stereotypes.
Negative stereotyping against those on low incomes is also rife in social services, where people applying for social benefits have reported being treated with suspicion and disdain. Millions of dollars in benefits are going unclaimed as a result, with potential beneficiaries preferring to avoid the humiliation of applying. This is a major reason for the non-take-up of rights which is severely weakening the world’s social protection programmes, the report said.
“Poverty will never be eradicated while povertyism is allowed to fester, restricting access to education, housing, employment and social benefits to those who need them the most,” De Schutter said.
“The world is finally waking up to the injustices of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, and putting laws in place to stop them from destroying people’s lives,” the UN expert said. “Povertyism is an affront to human rights, has no place in this world and must be treated just as seriously.”
Oct. 2022
Everyone has the right to be treated with Dignity - International Movement ATD Fourth World
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, which was first observed in Paris on October 17, 1987 when thousands of people came together to defend the dignity and human rights of people living in poverty.
Working with ATD Fourth World, the United Nations consulted people with lived experience of poverty, as well as their allies and friends around the world, to select the theme for this year’s October 17 observance: “Dignity for All in Practice.”
This theme recognizes and highlights that all people everywhere have the right to be treated with dignity — that, as human beings, we are entitled to respect and recognition from one another.
Yet, despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, millions of people today, especially people living in poverty, still suffer unacceptable indignities and human rights violations in their daily lives.
Their human dignity is denied and violated when they are forced to live in extreme poverty, when they must endure deprivations in so many aspects of their lives, and when they suffer social exclusion, discrimination, stigmatisation, and shame.
"When human dignity is denied, it weakens and threatens the very foundation of human rights itself".
ATD founder Joseph Wresinski observed unerringly that: “The ultimate goal of human rights is the protection of human dignity. It follows that implementing these rights will lead to all people living in freedom, justice, and peace. Only if they are taken as a whole can these rights guarantee human dignity. This is why all human rights must be protected at the same time.”
While Governments have the primary responsibility to defend and protect human rights, we have seen that government policies alone have not been able to fully protect and defend the human rights of all their citizens.
"What is required is for everyone to come together in solidarity to ensure that human dignity and rights are respected and protected".
Only by acting together can we ever hope to change our current economic and social systems — based largely on competition and division — that have created and perpetuated extreme poverty and social division in a world of plenty and encouraged the wanton exploitation of our fragile planet that has driven us to the brink of a global climate disaster.
Only when we act together to end poverty and social injustice can we ever hope to achieve lasting peace and learn to live in harmony with our planet. This is why we come together in solidarity on October 17.
* Donald Lee, President, International Movement ATD Fourth World

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