Rehabilitation addresses the impact of a health condition on a person’s everyday life, by optimizing their functioning and reducing their experience of disability. Rehabilitation expands the focus of health beyond preventative and curative care, to ensure people with a health condition can remain as independent as possible and participate in education, work and meaningful life roles. Anybody may need rehabilitation at some point in their lives, whether they have experienced an injury, disease, illness, or because their functioning has declined with age.
Globally, 1 in 3 people today are estimated to be living with a health condition that benefits from rehabilitation. This need for rehabilitation worldwide is predicted to increase in the coming years, due to changes in the health and characteristics of the population. For example, people are living longer, but with more chronic disease and disability. In addition, many people are living with mid- and long-term consequences of COVID-19 and in need of rehabilitation to recover from the disease.
A large number of countries are not equipped to respond to existing rehabilitation needs. In some low- and middle-income countries, more than 50% of people do not receive the rehabilitation services they require.
In 2017 WHO launched the Rehabilitation 2030 initiative, which emphasizes the need for concerted and coordinated action by all stakeholders to strengthen the health system to provide quality and timely rehabilitation through actions such as: improving leadership and governance; developing a strong multidisciplinary rehabilitation workforce; expanding financing for rehabilitation; and improving data collection and research on rehabilitation.
WHO continues to support countries to implement these actions through providing technical support, developing guidance and practical tools, and increasing the development of robust evidence for rehabilitation.