Global Initiative on Strengthening Health Systems for Rehabilitation

The Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are leading a consortium to strengthen rehabilitation services for millions of people in low- and middle-income countries.

The consortium are implementing a program, Learning, Acting and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS), with a USD$39.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Leahy War Victims Fund. The program presents an opportunity to provide access to high-quality sustainable services that are responsive to the growing need for physical rehabilitation.

Three young laughing Pakistani boys running toward the camera A team from the University will help answer ReLAB-HS’s challenging questions about how to integrate rehabilitation and assistive technology (AT) into complex and dynamic health systems, and how this can be done equitably and inclusively. Nossal Institute Director, Professor Barbara McPake will co-direct the program.

It's a privilege to be working on this program. Rehabilitation is particularly important in the context of epidemiological and demographic transitions. There are many older people who could benefit from rehabilitation services and it’s also particularly important when there are high levels of traumatic injury following conflict or disasters.Professor Barbara McPake.

The Institute’s team of researchers and practitioners will draw on its unique mix of research and implementation experience to re-think how rehabilitation and AT services are introduced and sustained, even in the most challenging contexts.

An estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide have health conditions that could benefit from rehabilitation, according to the World Health Organization. In low- and middle-income countries, more than half of those who could benefit from rehabilitation do not receive it. The need for rehabilitation services is projected to grow significantly over the next 30 years, as the population of those over 60 increases, coupled with a rise in the number of individuals living with chronic disease, according to the United Nations. In addition, an estimated 150 million children and adolescents across the globe experience disabilities or conditions that could benefit from rehabilitation.

The consortium includes collaborators with expertise in rehabilitation and health systems: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Humanity and Inclusion, Miracle Feet, Physiopedia, and UCP Wheels for Humanity. The program will focus on building local and international leadership, crafting and implementing local, demand-driven approaches and innovations, and working largely in communities and home settings, implementing real and relevant rehabilitation and policy solutions.

This project is expected to run until 2025.

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Professor Barbara McPake