Prof. Stefano Negrini at the World Health Assembly as Cochrane representative

From May 23 to 26, Stefano Negrini, scientific director of Isico, participated as a Cochrane representative in an event of the World Health Assembly, the main decision-making body of WHO. The event is co-organised by missions to WHO from five countries and several scientific, professional, and patient organisations in the field of rehabilitation.

The theme of this year’s Health Assembly was WHO at 75: Saving lives, driving health for all.

On May 25, the event “Strengthening Rehabilitation in Health Systems: What’s at Stake?” took place on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly to discuss advances and challenges in integrating rehabilitation into health systems.

After the approval of the resolution on rehabilitation by the General Assembly of all Ministers of Health in the world, Prof. Negrini was one of the speakers at the workshop organised by the World Rehabilitation Alliance, in which Negrini represents Cochrane, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers, and people interested in health.

“It is the first time that there is a resolution on rehabilitation by the World Health Assembly – comments Prof. Negrini – Rehabilitation is an essential component of universal health coverage. The lack of access to rehabilitation may expose persons with rehabilitation needs to higher risks of marginalisation in society, poverty, vulnerability, complications and comorbidities, and impact on functioning, participation and inclusion in society. The negative impact on people’s lives also causes an important economic burden on societies””.

WHO rehabilitation task force: Isico is also there

Some of Isico’s are part of an international project promoted by WHO (World Health Organization) which aims to draw up rehabilitation guidelines for all countries, including those in the developing world, available to all Ministries of Health.
These rehabilitation guidelines need to be applicable in any context, taking into account the economic means and therapeutic possibilities that differ from country to country.

A large-scale and very ambitious project, involving Isico with three specialists, namely Dr Fabio Zaina, Dr Sabrina Donzelli and Dr Francesca Di Felice. 
The supervision is given by Prof Stefano Negrini, also involved as director of Cochrane Rehabilitation.
“In this process of developing guidelines, we were asked to deal specifically with back pain – explains Dr Zaina – in the first phase, already completed now, we dealt with the bibliographic research. In the second phase, we were asked to collect the scientific evidence in respect to the data collected so as to build the guidelines. At the moment we are working on the final phase: drawing up the guidelines, with great attention also to the sustainability of costs in different countries, and presenting them to the referents of the various countries for their application”.

Rehabilitation: the comment of prof. Negrini on Lancet

When discussing health care in disability, it is essential to talk about rehabilitation. Yet it is not always obvious. Precisely for this prof. Stefano Negrini, as director of the Group of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (Cochrane Rehabilitation), developed the comment “Prioritising people with disabilities implies furthering rehabilitation” to the editorial “Prioritising disability in universal health coverage“.
Both were published in the scientific journal Lancet.
“Unfortunately, it happens that even major magazines forget the central role of rehabilitation, which is why this comment had the aim of emphasising the theme. We fully agree with the Editors regarding the need to prioritise disability in universal health coverage – he commented Prof. Negrini –  but we want to emphasise that for the World Health Organization (WHO) this implies also strengthening the rehabilitation health strategy.
Because of changing health and demographic trends, an increase in the number of people living with permanent disabilities, but also of people experiencing disabilities with the potential of recovery, has been observed. 
1 billion people live with disabilities,  while 2·4 billion people experience disabilities.  
Rehabilitation serves both groups: by reducing the number of people transitioning from experiencing a disability to living with a disability, maximising the benefits of other health services, and reducing the overall costs“. 

The comment concludes with these words: “WHO has included rehabilitation in the universal health coverage mandate together with other public health strategies including promotion, prevention, treatment, and palliative care… Paradoxically, the fundamental struggle for the rights of people living with disabilities somehow drove the attention to those with permanent and stable disabilities and social rehabilitation, without including those with evolving and changing conditions, who are the target groups of the rehabilitation health strategy. Rehabilitation strengthening advocated by WHO is in line with disability prioritisation emphasised in the Editorial, but will also reduce the burden of disability on the population and the costs of health services worldwide“.