The World Health Organization is a body within the United Nations that is responsible for“providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends,” according to the WHO website. The WHO is constantly releasing statistical reports on trends and instances of specific health conditions. This month, the WHO released a report entitled, “International perspectives on spinal cord injury” that addresses spinal cord injuries.
The report reveals that up to 500,000 people worldwide suffer from a spinal cord injury annually. The rate of spinal cord injury is nearly double for males when compared with females, according to Voice of America News. The data reveals that males are most at risk for a spinal cord injury during their twenties and after 70 years old, and females are most at risk in their teens and past 60 years of age. Additionally, the data reveals that up to 90 percent of spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma, such as vehicle crashes and falls. The rest of the spinal cord injury cases are non-traumatic, stemming from conditions such as “tumours, spina bifida and tuberculosis,” according to the report.
Also highlighted in the report are the consequences, both individual and societal, of spinal cord injury. Individual consequences include chronic pain, depression and other mental and physical conditions. In societies, individuals with spinal cord injury are less likely to be involved in schools and also face more barriers to socio-economic participation. In fact, adults with spinal cord injury have an estimated unemployment rate of 60 percent globally. The report states that the consequences are usually a result of inadequate medical care and rehabilitative services as well as “barriers in the physical, social and policy environments that exclude people with spinal cord injury from participation in their communities.”
The WHO recommends several steps to improve the climate for people suffering from spinal cord injury. First and foremost, the organization recommends improved and timely care right at the onset of a suspected spinal cord injury as well as continuing care and access to rehabilitative programs. Next, the WHO recommends improved social and economic conditions, including, but not limited to: more physically accessible facilities, more inclusive education, an improvement in attitudes towards the condition, elimination of discrimination and benefits designed to help achieve economic self-sufficiency. The report was published on December 3, 2013.