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Young men exercising in the physical therapy room next to their health care providers.

College joins WHO network to promote rehab sciences as an essential service

January 23, 2023 — 

The College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences recently joined the World Rehabilitation Alliance (WRA), a global network hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WRA was first announced in September 2022 and will have an official launch in July this year.

The alliance’s goal is to support the implementation of a WHO global initiative called Rehabilitation 2030 through advocacy activities, promoting rehabilitation as an essential health service. The group estimates 2.4 billion people are currently living with a health condition that benefits from rehabilitation.

Dr. Reg Urbanowski, dean of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, said the WRA membership will help the college in its mission to create and advance knowledge, skills and behaviours in health through research, education and service not only in Manitoba, but around the world. 

“There is a natural synergy between the two,” Urbanowski said. “Joining the WRA will help the college and help WRA by sharing expertise that exists in the college and the broader UM community with WRA, and it will provide the college with an opportunity to share its work with others on a global scale.”

According to the WRA, many low- and middle-income countries do not have the capacity to address the increasing rehabilitation needs of their population, with more than 50 per cent of people not receiving the rehabilitation services they require. Barriers include a lack of trained workforce and resources. Challenges have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, a representative said.

WHO launched Rehabilitation 2030 in 2017, identifying priority areas for action. Among these are the creation of strong leadership and political support for rehabilitation at all levels, incorporating rehabilitation in universal health coverage, expanding financing for rehabilitation and establishing and strengthening networks and partnerships in rehabilitation, particularly between low-, middle- and high-income countries.

The college joins 44 other member organizations from 16 countries, including state bodies, intergovernmental organizations, non-government organizations, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

All members of the WRA will participate in at least one of five identified workstreams: workforce, primary care, research, emergencies and external relations. A WRA representative said the purpose of the workstreams is to bring together members with similar interests, share information and collectively work on specific activities that align with the overall mission and objectives.

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