A Swedish survey has found that better social and economic conditions can improve the health of people with disabilities by up to a third.
The report shows how risk of poor health decreases by as much as 37 per cent for men and 29 per cent for women in Sweden when age, level of education, insulting personal treatment and social participation are taken into account.
These external influences are thought to be the cause a significant proportion of the poor health which exists among people with disabilities.
“A third of this poor health is not due to the impairment or disability; it is due to additional factors…that you can do something about,” said Magnus Wimmercranz of the Swedish National Institute of Public Health.
Wimmercranz said that these results should encourage urgent action on the structural aspects of society which influence the health of people with disabilities.
“We already know what we need to know, now is the time for action,” he said.
“It has to do with education, getting better jobs, getting better pay, getting more confidence… deciding [how to live] your own life,” he added.
These findings were the main topic of a conference organised by EuroHealthNet on “The Health of People with Disabilities”.
The conference addressed the imbalance of poor health among this group of people, the extent to which this comes from avoidable causes and appropriate action which can be taken at European level.
The conference comes in the wake of an action plan from the European Commission to reduce these unfair differences in health.
Participants included representatives from the Swedish Government, the Swedish National Institute of Public Health, the European Commission and the European Disability Forum.
“[The] health of people with disabilities is a human rights issue, and all EU policies must contribute to the enforcement of this fundamental right,” said Silvio Grieco from the European Commission’s directorate-general for empoyment.
The European Commission communication on health inequalities is available here.
For more information about EuroHealthNet, please visit www.eurohealthnet.eu