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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 168-177

Disability and rehabilitation medicine in Bangladesh: Current scenario and future perspectives

1 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, PNS Shifa Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan
3 Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation, Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine, Fredericton, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Farooq A Rathore
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, PNS Shifa Hospital, Karachi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jisprm.jisprm_61_19

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Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) is evolving in low- to middle-income countries. Although established as a separate specialty in Bangladesh 40 years ago, there has been no formal documentation of the history and current state of PMR, or associated disability issues in Bangladesh. The aim of this review is to provide a brief overview of the health-care system in Bangladesh, to discuss the available disability statistics, legislation for persons with disability (PWD), and current system(s) of disability management in the country. The evolution of PMR is presented along with an exploration of future perspectives. Data sources included an online literature search (English language only; 1970–2018) with predefined keywords. Official government websites were examined for disability-related statistics, and informal interviews with Bangladeshi government officials and rehabilitation professionals provided further insights. The reported disability prevalence in Bangladesh varies widely from 5.6% to 16.2%. Currently, there are 130 physiatrists, and over 1400 physiotherapists, 190 occupational therapists, and 200 speech and language therapists. A developing economy, illiteracy, maldistributions of wealth, and a rising prevalence of chronic diseases add to the burden of the existing disability. Legislations have been passed with an aim to protect the rights and dignity of PWD, but there are major barriers in implementing the acts. Social stigmatization of PWD remains largely unaddressed, with low rates of community reintegration. PWD also face mobility barriers and accessibility issues. PMR and other rehabilitation services are improving, but disability management is largely considered a social issue rather than a medical problem. There is a need to involve all stakeholders in disability management to strengthen medical rehabilitation and improve service delivery, while advocating for the rights of PWD.

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