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Reflections on Inequalities and the Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled People

11 Jan 2021 11:12 AM | Cecilia Clavijo (Administrator)

Reflections on Inequalities and the Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled People

Authors: Meredith A. Perry, Tristram Ingham, Bernadette Jones and Brigit Mirfin-Veitch

The latest edition of the New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy contains a paper: “At Risk” and “Vulnerable”! Reflections on Inequities and the Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled People. 


This paper, authored by a group of respected NZ disability researchers, includes both international and national reflections on disability outcomes in the wake of COVID-19. While the article is focused on a physiotherapy audience, its key messages are relevant for all health care professionals.

According to the authors, COVID-19 has “provided an opportunity to consciously consider how physiotherapists as health professionals and the systems we operate within should respond to health inequities including and especially those affecting disabled people.”

Despite the significant number of disabled people within our health system, they are not recognised by health professionals as a “distinct population in the same manner as they view older persons, children, racial minorities, and older groups.”

This paper provides an overview of disability and disability identity, social determinants of health, COVID-19 and disability. It also explores ethical dilemmas related to COVID-19—professional responsibility, allocating scarce resources, and asks what is the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people to date?

Several strategies are suggested for how physiotherapists, and health care professionals more generally, can help address inequalities for disabled people within the health sector, including the recognition and collection of disability identity. The authors note that it is only since health services in Aotearoa New Zealand routinely collected ethnicity data that the extent of Māori health inequalities have been revealed. You can access this article via the online version of the New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy here.


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