DOI: 10.12924/si2013.01020139 |Publication Date: 27 December 2013

Is Disability a Health Problem?

Malcolm MacLachlan 1, 2, * and Hasheem Mannan 1, 3
1 Centre for Global Health & School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
2 Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
3 Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne, Australia
* Corresponding author
Abstract: We welcome Andrew Haig's critique of our paper, "Disability & Health: A research agenda" [1] in Social Inclusion. Our paper sought to identify research priorities to better understand, provide enhanced services and a better quality of life for people with disabilities, particularly in relation to their health and wellbeing. Haig's [2] critique makes several important points that deserve serious consideration. His comments reflect a view of the relationship between disability and health which is different from the one we have espoused. Specifically, Haig argues that (a) disability is a health problem, (b) medical rehabilitation should be separated from Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), and (c) the evidence base for medical rehabilitation is much stronger than for CBR. We address each of these points below arguing that while some types of disability clearly result from health problems; often disability is not experienced as a health problem; and sometimes, disability in interaction with restricted access is the cause of health problems.

Keywords: disability; health; social inclusion


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