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Connections Between Health Equity and Disability

When it comes to health care, significant disparities abound between people with disabilities and non-disabled people. From physical barriers and discrimination, to financial hurdles and a lack of available resources, access to health care is alarmingly inequitable for disabled people around the world. According to a 2019 report from The Missing Billion, “People with disabilities face higher healthcare needs, more barriers to accessing services, and less health coverage, resulting in worse health outcomes.”

Unfortunately, the National Council on Disability (NCD) reported that rather than addressing these particular issues, “much of the Federal research effort [in the United States] remains focused on disability and disease prevention rather than on improving access to, and quality of, health care for people with disabilities, reducing their incidence of secondary health problems, and promoting healthy living.”

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly exacerbated healthcare inequities for the disability community–especially multi-marginalized disabled people. NCD’s 2021 Progress Report: The Impact of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities highlights several significant areas of discrimination and barriers that disabled people encountered, which posed direct fatality risks and led to loss of life in far too many cases.

Philanthropy can play a key role in mitigating and shifting away from many of these factors. To meaningfully move toward health equity for the global disability population, The Missing Billion urges funders to take the following actions:

“Develop/review criteria for grant making to make sure that all programming ensures equitable access for people with disabilities;…make catalytic investments in activities that we know will have impact on improving healthcare access for this group;…[and] invest in further operational research and human-centered design work to strengthen our knowledge and understanding of the barriers to healthcare facing people with disabilities.”

To begin your learning, please watch our webinar on the connections between health equity and disability. Then, we encourage you to explore the following articles and resources.

Key Facts

Disparities in Health Care

Health Care Disparities for Disabled People of Color

Health Care Disparities for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

First-Person Perspectives

Achieving Health Equity