​​Dr. Andrea Furlan
Dr. Andrea Furlan, Senior Scientist and Physiatrist, Toronto Rehab led research team to develop five of the nine World Health Organization rehab guidelines. (Photo: UHN)

One billion people worldwide live with disability – and 80 per cent of these individuals live in low or middle-income countries, which have little to no rehabilitation care.

The World Bank recognizes that by funding the expansion of quality rehabilitation in these countries, there is an opportunity to create greater economic opportunities by growing the workforce.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was asked to provide guidance on how to spend the funds.

Dr. Andrea Furlan, Senior Scientist and Physiatrist, Toronto Rehab, UHN, led the research team at the Institute for Work & Health, University of Toronto, that provided five of the nine rehabilitation recommendations.

"Currently, there is a significant unmet need for rehabilitation services in these countries and it is frequently undervalued in their health systems," said Dr. Furlan. "There will be a big impact if countries choose one of these recommendations to implement."

Earlier this month, the WHO met in Geneva to discuss the strategic direction for implementing the guidelines.

The hope is that by investing in comprehensive rehabilitation, people with disabilities will have improved health and increase their participation in education and work, which will enhance productivity in these countries. The key to the success is ensuring that rehabilitation is available and affordable to those who need it.

Dr. Furlan's team was one of three worldwide who provided scientific evidence to support their recommendations. The team included Dr. Gaetan Tardif, Dr. John Flannery and Dr. Mark Bayley, also from Toronto Rehab, UHN.

Read the full guidelines and brochure.

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