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The World Health Organization (WHO) is today holding a global consultation on assistive technology to explore global demand and supply, as well as ways to improve the availability of essential, affordable assistive products for those in need.

WHO will use the consultation as a platform to encourage all countries to prioritise assistive technology and establish the necessary policies and regulations to enable greater access across the globe.

Assistive products include hearing aids, mobility devices, AAC products, prosthetics and other essential items that enhance an individual’s quality of life. They are particularly vital for elderly and disabled people, who might rely on these devices for their independence.

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WHO estimates that one billion people globally need at least one assistive product but that only ten percent of people have access due to high prices, lack of awareness and a shortage of trained staff.

“Appropriate assistive technology provision reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers,” said Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for access to medicines and health products. “As well as improving the lives of millions it saves precious health resources.”

To meet the demands of the worldwide ageing population and the increase in the number of people with a disability, WHO will emphasise the importance of innovation in meeting these needs.

Participants in the consultation include representatives from national health ministries and parliaments, professional organisations, academia, user groups and other civil society, and industry.

The outcome of discussions will be captured in the first ever global report on effective access to assistive technology, which will inform WHO’s future agenda on this topic alongside action points for countries.

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