ISPRM and WHO Collaboration: History, COVID-19 and Beyond

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By Dr. Manoj Poudel, Chair of ISPRM World Youth Forum

The International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ISPRM) is a non-State actor in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2000.  The collaboration continued through the years with contributions to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health in 2001, World Report in Disability in 2011, WHO Disability Action Plan 2014-2021 and Rehabilitation 2030 – A Call for Action to name a few.

ISPRM-WHO webinar picture
Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus a message to ISPRM and its members during the webinar session on ISPRM-WHO collaboration, July 22, 2020

July 22, 2020 became a historical day for ISPRM as the honorable Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sent a special video message to ISPRM and its members during the webinar session on ISPRM-WHO collaboration. He emphasized that many of the tools and resources WHO is developing draw on the expertise and experience of the ISPRM and the broader rehabilitation community which is vital for fulfilling the vision of WHO for universal health coverage and the other health related sustainable development goals. 

Prof. Alarcos Cieza and Prof. Walter Frontera represented the WHO and ISPRM respectively as distinguished speakers of the webinar. Prof. Frontera, the Immediate Past President of ISPRM elaborated the historical timeline of the collaboration between the WHO and ISPRM. He highlighted the activities of ISPRM-WHO Liaison Committee which is currently chaired by Prof. Carlotte Kiekens. The audience got an opportunity to learn about the strong participation of ISPRM at World Health Assembly in 2019 and Rehabilitation 2030 – A Call for Action. ISPRM regional leadership have also been participating in the WHO regional events. Prof. Frontera emphasized that the rehabilitation physicians should utilize the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity. He added that it is because rehabilitation medicine team has important role in pre-habilitation, acute rehabilitation including the intensive care unit, post-acute phase and outpatient follow-up of COVID-19 patients. He also raised concerns about the effect of COVID-19 crisis on residency training and the importance of addressing the issues by the leadership.

Prof. Alarcos Cieza, the Head of Specialist Unit of Sensory functions, Disability and Rehabilitation of WHO highlighted the overall goals and functions of WHO and the resolutions related to rehabilitation. She added the commitment of WHO for fulfilling the goals of Rehabilitation 2030 – A Call for Action and emphasized the role of ISPRM. The need for clear guidance to identify priority patients who should continue rehabilitation when the rehabilitation services are temporarily ceased, decreased or diverted with the help of tele-rehabilitation is a WHO recommendation. Prof. Cieza added that WHO-ISPRM collaboration is essential for strengthening the health system to provide rehabilitation services, for development of national strategic plan and monitoring framework and to formulate Rehabilitation Competency Framework. She concluded that the ISPRM-WHO collaboration is strong however there is more to do for the people-living disability and rehabilitation health care delivery system.

During the Question & Answer session Prof. Frontera appreciated the leadership of WHO and suggested we should continue to do more things together with the support of the WHO. Prof. Cieza replied that the WHO and ISPRM are in the same boat to fulfill the rehabilitation agenda of the world. Prof. Leonard Li, the President of ISPRM delivered a closing remark. He sincerely thanked Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Prof. Frontera and Prof. Cieza for their invaluable contribution to the ISPMR-WHO Collaboration. He encouraged the ISPRM members to work hand-in-hand during the COVID-19 crisis and ensured that ISPRM is there to help the national societies and the members during the crisis and beyond.

ISPRM and its members will take inspiration from the motivating words of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – “The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many health systems into turmoil, but it also represents an opportunity to bond together, strengthen collaboration and demonstrate the value of rehabilitation to population health. Now, more than ever, the rehabilitation community needs to be united across disciplines, specializations and countries so that every person has access to rehabilitation services that they need.”

The ISPRM Webinar Series is being jointly organized by the ISPRM Education Committee and ISPRM World Youth Forum. Dr. Rochelle Dy, Dr. Mooyeon Oh-Park and Dr. Manoj Poudel are the core organizer of the series. The organizing team would like to sincerely thank our distinguished speakers, audience, moderators and hosts.

ISPRM-WHO webinar picture


Visit our webinar page for the recording of past webinars and schedule of future live events: