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Prevalence of coverage of assistive technology in the WHO European Region: A scoping review

12 October 2021

CATCH Professor, Luc de Witte, has participated in a large WHO meeting with government representatives of more than 30 countries in the WHO EU Region about assistive technology provision.

A report Professor de Witte developed, along with PhD students Alice Spann and Sarah Abdi, about assistive technology provision in the 53 European countries formed a basis for this meeting. This is part of a global consultation process to obtain input for the Global Report on Assistive Technology the WHO is developing and of which Professor de Witte is one of the editors.

As of 2021, more than one billion people globally need assistive technology – a number that is set to double by 2050. Assistive technology can enable people living with restrictions in their day-to-day lives because of disability, noncommunicable diseases or ageing to be more independent.

Broadly speaking, assistive technology can help to alleviate limitations related to the following six functional categories:

  1. Hearing

  2. Vision

  3. Mobility

  4. Self-care

  5. Communication

  6. Cognition

In addition to convincing evidence of its cost-effectiveness, assistive technology has the potential to help people living with restrictions due to ageing, disease or disability, escape marginalisation and become empowered to live the life they want to lead and improve their own quality of life and that of the people around them. Despite these benefits, it is estimated that only 10% of people needing assistive technology currently have access to it, even basic devices such as hearing aids or spectacles.

This scoping review aims to provide an overview of what is currently known about the prevalence and coverage of assistive technology in the WHO European Region. It is guided by the following research question: "What is the prevalence of needs, access and coverage of assistive technology and what are facilitators and barriers to access and coverage in the WHO European Region?"

Sixty-two publications included in this review were identified by searching the academic databases Scopus, CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Google Scholar. A further 41 publications were identified by national experts within the WHO European Region and the total number of publications included in the analysis was 103. Relevant information was extracted into a data chart and analysed, using a narrative approach.

Read the full paper