“We must support those recovering from COVID-19, as this will help the community and the economy to recover in turn,” said WHO Representative in Ukraine, Dr. Jarno Habicht. “Life isn’t just about survival,” he added, “a fulfilling life involves participating in family life and contributing to society, not feeling like a burden.”
A group of WHO experts worked together with national authorities in Ukraine for 2 weeks from 31 August 2020 to make sure rehabilitation services are fully functional and well-integrated into health care.
Rehabilitation is needed when a person experiences limitations in their day-to-day functioning due to aging or a health condition such as a chronic disease or disorder, injury, or trauma. When it comes to patients recovering from severe cases of COVID-19, rehabilitation helps them to return to their previous activities and to reduce potential long-term disability after many days or weeks spent in intensive care.
Integrating rehabilitation in 6 health system building blocks
During the 2 weeks, WHO experts collected and assessed in-country data, providing a snapshot of Ukraine’s rehabilitation sector and the extent to which it has been integrated into the 6 health system building blocks: governance, finance, information management, service delivery, workforce, and medicines/assistive products.
They conducted small group discussions on each of these blocks together with national and international stakeholders; visited health facilities and interviewed health professionals; and trained workers and product suppliers. More than 60 stakeholders engaged in the discussions, including parliamentary representatives, ministry officials, rehabilitation professionals, bilateral donors, rehabilitation service users, and people with disabilities.
Towards Ukraine’s national rehabilitation strategic plan
Ukraine’s Ministry of Health welcomed this evidence-based input from WHO, acknowledging that it will help improve many aspects of rehabilitation in the country. The Ministry’s newly created Quality of Life Directorate specifically includes rehabilitation as one of its 4 expert groups and the results of the assessment will contribute to the development of a national rehabilitation strategic plan.
WHO/Europe is implementing a 4-year program (2018–2022) to strengthen access to rehabilitation services and assistive products in the WHO European Region and has identified eastern Europe (including Ukraine) and central Asia as priority areas for support. The program is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).