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Health, Nutrition and Population

Photo: a baby with a disability sitting in a circle of parents group having a discussion


Launch of the World Report on Disability
June 9, 2011

Key Topics of the Page

Health and wellness in relation to disability is a very broad subject. It includes prevention, rehabilitation and inclusion on different levels, and also a wealth of subtopics such as: nutrition, communicable and non-communicable diseases, injuries, physical therapy, durable medical equipment, disability and HIV/AIDS and the list can go on. The link from health to disability is well demonstrated in the ICF (ICIDH-2) framework.

Another link that brings health and disability in close unison is the Millennium Development Goals, at least half of which are directly health related. The first being the eradication of poverty: any kind of disability leading to decreased functioning can be impoverishing. Many people with disabilities are denied education or jobs. A disorder may require chronic health care and thus drain scarce household resources. Child mortality reduction and improvement of maternal health are additional Goals.

The relation between health and disability is much more wide-reaching than the medical component of disability prevention. One reason is that it also serves to mitigate the impact of the disability for those who are already disabled.

Children and Early Intervention

Why invest in Early Intervention?

The reasons for investing in ECD projects are numerous and interrelated. A child's ability to think, form relationships, and live up to his or her full potential is directly related to the synergistic effect of good health, good nutrition, and appropriate stimulation and interaction with others. A large body of research has proven the importance of early brain development and the need for good health and nutrition.

World Bank Resources:
External Resources:
  • International Society on Early Intervention
    "The rapidly expanding numbers of children worldwide who are at-risk for developmental and health problems due, for example, to poverty, prematurity/low birth weight, infectious diseases, or to exposure to toxic substances prenatally or during early childhood demand a supportive and effective set of well-designed services. Often co-occurring threats to development that are the result of abuse or neglect or parenting practices compromised by mental illness or limited abilities of caregivers are reaching epidemic proportions in many countries. For all risk populations, early intervention is best conceptualized as providing preventive intervention; i.e., efforts to prevent or minimize the impact of risk factors on a child's development and general well-being." This site is a knowledge management framework and forum.
  • The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Development
    The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development, is a diverse consortium of agencies, donors, NGOs and foundations that links with regional-based Early Childhood Care and Development networks comprising individuals and organizations involved in programming, research, policy-advocacy, monitoring and evaluation for young children (0-8) at risk in the Majority World. The term Majority World refers to those countries that are often referred to as South countries, developing or third world countries and serves to remind us that the majority of the world's children are at risk of delayed or debilitated development.
  • Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD): Editorial/Expert Meeting on Early Intervention
    The meeting took place on May 31, 2002 and a detailed report is available.
  • Disability World: UNICEF & Disabled Children and Youths
    In early 2003 many of the international disability organizations wrote to UNICEF to request that it strengthen its programming and commitment in the area of childhood disability. The following information was provided by Rehabilitation International (RI) headquarters to clarify the need for UNICEF leadership in bringing children and youths with disabilities into the mainstream of beneficiaries of global policies and programs designed to reach all children.

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Communicable Diseases


Communicable diseases are the world's biggest killers of children and among the top causes of death of adults in the developing world. They claim 6 million lives a year and they account for about 80 percent of the difference in life expectancy between citizens of rich and poor countries. Diseases like HIV, TB and malaria are not constrained by borders - successful control is possible only through coordinated efforts by many countries. But often a lack of political will, inadequate funding and weak health systems hinder control efforts. Reversing communicable disease epidemics is one of the Millennium Development Goals.

World Bank Resources:
External Resources:
  • WHO - Prevention of Blindness and Deafness (PDB)
    The objective of the WHO programme for the Prevention of Blindness is to assist Member States to effectively prevent blindness and restore sight, when possible. The global target is to ultimately reduce blindness prevalence to less than 0.5% in all countries, or less than 1% in any country. The objective of the WHO programme for the Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Impairment is to assist Member States to reduce and eventually eliminate avoidable hearing impairment and disability through appropriate preventive measures.
  • WHO - on Infectious Diseases
    Index of infectious diseases with links and explanations
Global Initiatives:
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Injuries and violence constitute major public health problems, killing over five million people per year, and harming many millions more. In 2001, injuries and violence accounted for 9% of the world's deaths and 15% of all non-communicable disease-related deaths. Yet events which result in injury are not random or unpredictable. The causes of injuries can be studied and acted upon; injuries can be prevented. (Source: Injuries and Violence Prevention: The Global Health Challenge) The main preventative action areas are Work safety, road safety and violence prevention.

World Bank Resources:
External Resources:
  • International Labour Organization on Safe Work
  • WHO: World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention
    Road traffic injuries are a major but neglected public health challenge that requires concerted efforts for effective and sustainable prevention. Of all the systems with which people have to deal every day, road traffic systems are the most complex and the most dangerous. Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Projections indicate that these figures will increase by about 65% over the next 20 years unless there is new commitment to prevention. Nevertheless, the tragedy behind these figures attracts less mass media attention than other, less frequent types of tragedy.
  • WHO on Road Traffic Injury Prevention
    Definition: A road traffic injury is any injury due to crashes originating, terminating or involving a vehicle partially or fully on a public highway (WHO 1992).
    Burden of Disease: Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death by injury and the 9th leading cause of all deaths worldwide. Road traffic injuries are projected to become the third leading cause of disability-adjusted life years lost worldwide by 2020, surpassed only by heart disease and major depression.
  • Bone and Joint Decade
    Musculoskeletal disorders are common effects of injuries. The goal of the Bone and Joint Decade is to improve the health-related quality of life for people with musculoskeletal disorders throughout the world. These disorders are the most notorious and common causes of severe long-term pain and physical disability, affecting hundreds of millions of people across the world. The Decade aims to raise awareness and promote positive actions to combat the suffering and costs to society associated with musculoskeletal disorders such as joint diseases, osteoporosis, spinal disorders, severe trauma to the extremities and crippling diseases and deformities in children. The site contains links to participating organizations worldwide and a link to a Web cast (Video Camera icon) from the UN General Assembly on the Global Road Safety Crisis.
Related Topics:

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Mental Health

World Bank Resources:
External Resources:

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Non-Communicable Diseases


Non-Communicable Diseases cover, but are not limited to: cardiovascular disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), peripheral vascular disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema), asthma, diabetes, mental illness (including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, psychosis, alcohol and drug abuse), other non-infectious, chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis.

World Bank Resources:
  • Health, Nutrition and Population Sector: fact sheet on Cardiovascular Health
    Of all global deaths from (Cardiovascular diseases) CVD, 65% occur in developing countries. This will increase to 75% by 2025. By then, cardiovascular disorders will be the biggest cause of lost disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide, and the second leading cause of DALY loss in developing countries.
  • Surveillance: Fact Sheet on Surveillance
Related Topics:
  • Mental Health
  • Substance Abuse
  • Nutrition

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The link between nutrition and disability has yet to be firmly established. But there is research and figures showing the prevalence for kids disabled by micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin A, iodine, folic acid). One side of the story is this: securing proper nutrition for children and mothers, another is the prevention of nutrition related secondary disabilities for people already affected by disability. Obvious links include iodine deficiency which can lead to reduced IQ and cretinism and mental retardation in severe cases and vitamin A deficiency which is linked to blindness.

World Bank Resources:
  • World Bank on Nutrition
    Nearly half of child mortality in low-income countries can be linked to malnutrition. The World Bank supports a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition that targets the poor, especially young children and their mothers. To reach these groups, the Bank emphasizes community-and school-based nutrition programs, food fortification programs, and food policy reforms. The Bank's nutrition portfolio is also giving increased attention to micronutrient deficiencies, the impact of nutrition on education and learning ability, and early child development projects. The page also links to a fact sheet on nutrition.
  • To Nourish a Nation: Investing in Nutrition with World Bank Assistance
    This page describes some best buys in nutrition and explains the reality of the problem as answers to common myths about nutrition.
  • A New Agenda for Women's Health and Nutrition
    This focuses on actions that can be taken by the health sector. It suggests essential clinical and public health interventions, discusses factors to be considered in program planning and implementation, and describes ways that assistance agencies can facilitate programs. Most of the leading causes of death and disability among women in developing countries can be prevented or treated through highly cost-effective interventions.
External Resources:
  • World Health Organization (WHO) on Nutrition
    This page provides links to descriptions of activities, reports, news and events, as well as contacts and cooperating partners in the various WHO programmes and offices working on this topic. Also shown are links to related web sites and topics.
  • Institute of Child Health
    Disability and malnutrition in developing countries. The huge global problem of malnutrition is well-known, and at-risk groups such as women, young children and the elderly have been identified. Dr Aisha Yousafzai's PhD focused on exploring the vulnerability to malnutrition within disadvantaged communities of children with disabilities. Making up about 10 per cent of any population, it was clearly important to ascertain how such children fare and whether they face specific barriers to gaining adequate nutrition.
  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
    Health and Nutrition Emerging and Reemerging Issues in Developing Countries By Lindsay H. Allen, February 2001
  • Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Micronutrient/Mineral Research
    Research on vitamin A, Calcium, Iron, Micronutrient combinations and zinc.
  • Press Release: By 2020, 76 Million Worldwide Could Go Blind Without Prevention
    Over 52 million people worldwide can avoid going blind if current and new resources are successfully implemented, according to a new study. Researchers for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that without extra intervention, the global number of blind individuals would increase from 44 million in 2000 to 76 million in 2020.
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Immunization is acknowledged to be among the most cost-effective and highest-impact health interventions. Nearly three million deaths are prevented each year by immunization, and an even greater amount of illness and disability. An additional three million deaths a year could be prevented by existing vaccines.

World Bank Resources:
  • The World Bank on Immunization. The World Bank Group supports immunization worldwide through: assistance to country governments (via loans and credits, and technical assistance); its policy dialogue aimed at making immunization every country's priority; and partnerships with organizations strengthening the control of communicable diseases, as well as grants to help stimulate vaccine research and development. This page has a link to the Immunization update number 16 (December 2003) and a link to a fact sheet on Immunization containing a summary of key facts, priority interventions, indicators and useful implementation lessons. Plus links to additional resources and information
External Resources:
  • World Health Organization (WHO) on Immunization
    WHO has a wide range of information on immunization related issues such as quality of immunization services, vaccine supply & quality, safe vaccines, safe injections and the state of the world's vaccines and immunizations.
  • Unicef: Facts for Life - Immunization
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Fact Sheet on Rubella
    More than 110,000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome are estimated to occur each year in developing countries. Caring for children with the syndrome is difficult and costly because of the permanent disabilities caused by this condition. Rubella vaccination will prevent the occurrence of congenital rubella syndrome. Immunizing adolescent girls and women of childbearing age will help prevent the syndrome.
  • PATH, an international, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, on prevention of Communicable diseases
    The site has a link to the Children's Vaccine Program (CVP)
Related Organizations:

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Reproductive Health


Reproductive health and disability and disabled women's reproductive health are two sides of this issue, the former being addressed much more often than the latter. Improving maternal health is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) and so is reducing child mortality. Among issues for disabled women's reproductive health care are affordability, accessibility, limited skilled human resources, quality of services, lack of emergency services, stigma, lack of knowledge et cetera, the list could go on and on. Reproductive health is not only an issue of preventing disability in the mother or the child it is an inclusion issue for all women.

World Bank Resources:
  • The World Bank's Health, Nutrition and Population sector has produced a fact sheet on reproductive health
    The fact sheet does not specifically address disabled women's reproductive health. Reproductive health (RH) is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease, in all matters relating to the reproductive system. RH implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability and freedom to decide their reproductive choices. RH problems such as early and unwanted childbearing, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy-related illness and death account for a significant part of the burden of disease among adolescents and adults in developing countries. The 1993 World Development Report showed that at least 13% of all DALYs were caused by RH problems. For women the proportion was 33%.
External Resources:
  • Family Care International
    FCI is dedicated to improving women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in developing countries, with a special emphasis on making pregnancy and childbirth safer.
  • JHPIEGO, a not-for-profit international public health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., are working to improve the health of women and their families throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, from offices in 17 countries. Work includes: increasing access and quality, building capacity. promoting sound health policies, developing networks and promoting best practices. Links to case studies and a description of their work in reproductive health and family planning, HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health center of excellence and cervical cancer prevention and treatment.
Related Links:

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School Health


Ensuring that children are healthy and able to learn is an essential component of an effective education system. Good health increases enrollment and reduces absenteeism, and brings more of the poorest and most disadvantaged children to school, many of whom are girls. It is these children who are often the least healthy and most malnourished, and who have the most to gain educationally from improved health.
Effective school health programs that are developed as part of community partnerships provide one of the most cost-effective ways to reach school age children, adolescents and the broader community, and are a sustainable way to promote healthy practices including HIV/AIDS.

World Bank Resources:
External Resources:
  • Education For All 2000 Assessment. Thematic Study on School Health and Nutrition [PDF]
    This paper was commissioned by the World Health Organization's (WHO) Department of Health Promotion, on behalf of Education for All (EFA) 2000, and prepared by Health and Human Development Programs (HHD) at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), the WHO Collaborating Center to Promote Health Through Schools and Communities.
  • WHO: About school health and youth health promotion
  • WHO: Global school health initiative
    WHO's Global School Health Initiative, launched in 1995, seeks to mobilise and strengthen health promotion and education activities at the local, national, regional and global levels. The Initiative is designed to improve the health of students, school personnel, families and other members of the community through schools.
See also:

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Last updated: 2011-06-22

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