Health systems across the world are facing challenges created by dramatic demographic and epidemiological trends in population ageing and the increased prevalence in chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, mental or musculoskeletal disorders. Together these trends point to future global populations that will live longer but with more disability. Evidence-informed policies and public health interventions to lower the prevalence of disability in countries are necessary and should be directed at optimizing functioning of individuals or lowering environmental macro level determinants of disability. The defining objective of rehabilitation – which distinguishes this health strategy from prevention, promotion and cure – is to optimize functioning and thereby minimize the impact of disability. Rehabilitation therefore directly addresses the challenge of population trends and is therefore the key health strategy for the 21st century.
Keening aware of the promise of rehabilitation, but concerned that rehabilitation services are often undeveloped or absent in many countries of the world, the World Health Organization launched in 2017 the “Rehabilitation 2030: A Call for Action” initiative. The aim of this initiative was to raise the profile of rehabilitation as a health strategy relevant to the entire population, across the lifespan and across the continuum of care. “Rehabilitation 2030” calls for a coordinated and collaborative global action towards strengthening rehabilitation in health systems worldwide.
On October 23th, 2017, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Lucerne unanimously decided to establish a Center for Rehabilitation in Global Health Systems, with the goal of developing a thematic focus in line with WHO’s “Rehabilitation 2030: A Call for Action”. The application of the Faculty was approved by the Senate and soon thereafter by the University Council. Participating in the Center are, first of all, professors and organizational units from the faculties at the University of Lucerne and, secondly, international external partners. Soon thereafter, and in appreciation of the Center’s research and implementation agenda, the World Health Organization desigated the Center as the location of an official WHO Collaborating Center.
The vision of the Center for Rehabilitation in Global Health System is that high quality rehabilitation – the key health strategy of the 21st century – will be part of health systems worldwide, integrated within the continuum of care, fully available to everyone who can benefit from it, included within Universal Health Coverage, and acknowledged to be as equally important as curative medicine, health promotion and prevention.
The mission of the Center for Rehabilitation in Global Health System is to pursue the major goals of high quality educational, research and implementation activities leading to the development of expertise and the know-how necessary to strengthen rehabilitation in global health systems
The guiding principles of the Center for Rehabilitation in Global Health System:
- Ensure that our work is grounded in an integrative and person-centered perspective of health;
- respect cultural diversity;
- recognize that health systems are complex adaptive systems that require a systems thinking research approach;
- appreciate that our research and implementation can only be successful when conducted by network of partners and stakeholders;
- recognize that research without implementation will have little societal impact;
- value the perspectives and experience of all health professionals that deliver rehabilitation services;
- recognize the central role of high quality and effective health information systems.