WHO: Spinal cord injuries medically complex, but preventable

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Nearly 500,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury each year, with many having to live with lifelong disabilities due to lack of appropriate treatment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO says up to 90 per cent of spinal cord injury cases are due to traumatic causes such as road traffic crashes, falls and violence.

Males between the ages of 20 to 29 years and those above the age of 70 are most at risk of spinal cord injury.

Ahead of the International Day for People with Disabilities to be observed on 3 December, WHO says most people with spinal cord injury experience chronic pain while about a third show signs of depression and are at risk of developing secondary conditions that can be debilitating and even life-threatening, such as deep vein thrombosis, urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers and respiratory complications.

WHO says although spinal injury is a medically complex and life-disrupting condition, most cases are preventable, survivable, and need not impede good health and social inclusion.

Alana Officer is the Coordinator of the Disability and Rehabilitation Team at WHO

"If we are going to improve the health and participation of people with spinal cord injury, the people with spinal cord injury need access to ongoing health care. Basic things like health education. If people with spinal cord injuries are trained they can avoid a lot of secondary complications. They need access to quality rehabilitation and services to really try to maximize their functions and improve their independence. Mental health care services are needed, about 20 to 30 per cent of people with spinal cord injuries experience depression, so making sure those services are readily available is really important."

WHO says many of the consequences associated with spinal cord injury do not result from the condition itself but from inadequate medical care and rehabilitation services, and from societal barriers which exclude people with spinal cord injury from participating in their communities.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2.15″

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