On 5th-6th March the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and its partners co-hosted the fourth annual European research platform for inclusive community planning and service development for people with disabilities (EURECO), to discuss how we can achieve inclusive healthcare services for persons with disabilities. The event raised awareness of the poor health outcomes and lower life expectancy of persons with disabilities, while calling on the European Union to facilitate the development of high-quality healthcare services for persons with disabilities via the Horizon Europe funding programme and the European Disability Strategy.
Persons with disabilities have the same health needs as non-disabled people, but they often face additional health risks. In particular, people with severe disabilities are often more susceptible to common diseases or co-morbid conditions. Despite the increased likelihood that persons with disabilities will experience poor health outcomes, today’s current healthcare systems fail to provide adequate health care services to those who need it.
Systematic failures within the healthcare system have been linked to the poor health outcomes and lower life expectancies of persons with disabilities and it is estimated that the average life expectancy of men with disabilities is over 13 years lower than those without a disability, while being over 20 years lower from women with disabilities.
In response to the current state of healthcare for persons with disabilities, EASPD, the International Association for The Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSID), the University of Warwick, the University of Siegen and ZonMw co-hosted the EURECO Forum to set the agenda for inclusive, accessible health care services for all.
Bringing together health professionals, academics, persons with disabilities, support service providers, representatives of the European Commission and civil society organizations, participants identified the:
- inaccessibility of affordable health care or treatment;
- absence of sustained collection of disaggregated data and systematic adoption of evidence-based practices;
- capacity of healthcare professionals to have the time and training to provide persons with disabilities with the appropriate care; and
- lack of cooperation and communication among stakeholders,
as key barriers, preventing person with disabilities from having full access to health care.
While health policies remain under the competence of national governments, the European Union (EU) has an important role to play in promoting the development of quality health care services for persons with disabilities.
In particular, the Horizon Europe funding programme is a key tool which can support increased data collection to support the development and implementation of evidence-based policies for inclusive health services. Despite health being a key area of action of the programme, the fund currently underutilizes the opportunities it has to stimulate innovations in the healthcare of persons with disabilities. Speaking from the event EASPD President, Jim Crowe, stressed that: ‘Today’s healthcare systems are currently failing to understand and meet the needs of persons with disabilities. This is costing lives. We need a responsive Horizon Europe programme, which enables the collection of evidence-based data related to persons with disabilities.’
To be effective, promoting access to health and support services for persons with disabilities must be integrated across a number of EU initiatives, including the European Disability Strategy. ‘The European Disability Strategy post 2020 must reinforce the right of accessible health, delivered in a holistic approach, incorporating not only individual’s healthcare needs, but also their wider support needs’ asserted Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General. Adding to this he continued: ‘The newly released European Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and the upcoming Child Guarantee will also play an important role in ensuring that all persons with disabilities have access to health and support services in-line with their needs, enabling them to full participate and contribute to their communities.’
EASPD and its partners in the EURECO Forum will continue to work with its partners and the European Union, to facilitate the development of more inclusive health and support services for persons with disabilities. Over the coming years, partners will work to increase the exchange of knowledge in this field and promote further opportunities for the funding of research and action in this area.
For more information, please contact:
EASPD Research & Development Officer
+32 2 233 77 25
 Heslop, Lancet, 2014, 383; 889-95
PowerPoint Presentations from event:
Arena discussion ppt 1
Arena discussion ppt 2
Keynote- Hannah Kuper
Panel 1- Laurence Taggart
Panel 1- Rosalia Lopez Sanchez
Panel 2- Jan Berndsen
Panel 2- Kylie Gray
Panel 2- Peter Langdon
Panel 2- Valerija Buzan
Panel 2- Richard Hastings
Panel 3- Hans Schaedler
Panel 3- Jos Sterckx
Panel 3- Marco Garrido Cumbrera
Panel 4- Laurence Taggart ppt 1
Panel 4- Laurence Taggart ppt 2