Meeting rehabilitation needs of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in an emergency medical response: a role for physiotherapy?
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Objective: The study explores the potential role of physiotherapists (PTs) in violent conflict and post-disaster responses and discusses physical rehabilitation within the context of contemporary" emergency medical assistance (EMA) and in the light of the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Background: Rehabilitation needs of persons with pre-existing disabilities and disaster-related acquired disabilities have rarely been addressed in emergency medical responses. With the CRPD that came into force in 2008 and after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the humanitarian organization started to involved PTs who dealt with the rehabilitation needs of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and this seemingly indicated a shift from only focusing on the acute emergency medical response to including long-term recovery. Methods: This study is a narrative review that synthesizes literature searched in the field of the allied health professions, medicine and social science in the databases PubMed, Web of Knowledge and CINAHL. Discussion: An examination of injury pattern in post-disaster and violent conflict settings and medical needs associated with the recent increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) indicate a need to include physical rehabilitation in emergency medical responses. The emphasis is on discussing whether rehabilitation needs have been met for PWDs post-disaster and in situ violent conflicts. The discussion of physiotherapy (PT) in emergency medical responses in the light of the CRPD provides ethical arguments for and against an inclusive emergency response. Conclusion: Physical rehabilitation should be part of mainstream emergency medical responses in future post-disaster and violent conflict settings. An inclusive humanitarian approach can be achieved by including PWDs and PT into disaster response planning and preparedness.