Today is World Health Day. The World Health Organization is asking people and governments all over the world to take action towards becoming Well-Being Societies.

Well-Being Societies prioritize human well-being, equity, and ecological sustainability. At Inclusion Canada, we’re thinking about how people with an intellectual disability and their families can be included in this vision of a #HealthierTomorrow.

A word scramble image in Inclusion Canada's purple and teal colouring. Some of the most prominent words include "Healthcare, People with Disabilities, Mental Health, Support, Family, and Care."

Inclusive Well-Being Societies must be accessible:

Inclusion Canada recently hosted a roundtable on Access to Healthcare. We wanted to know more about how we can improve access to healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities and their families across the country.

We heard about:

  • Waitlists and gaps in support,
  • The harsh impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,
  • The importance of informed consent and supported decision making,
  • Ableism in the healthcare system,
  • Overmedication and diagnostic overshadowing,
  • Other barriers to mental health care, and
  • Social determinants of health being precarious.

Access to healthcare is key for building a #HealthierTomorrow that is inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities.

Inclusive Well-Being Societies must leave nobody behind:

Climate change impacts us all, but not equally. For example, we know that surging food prices are in part caused by changing climates. This is hard on people with intellectual disabilities living in poverty. Too many people with disabilities are housing insecure, or remain institutionalized in congregate settings. Heat waves or cold fronts are experienced differently by people who do not have air conditioning or reliable heat in their space.

We know that when disaster strikes, people with disabilities are more likely to be left behind, because of poor planning, barriers to migration, inaccessibility, and gaps in support. There is also the possibility that during climate crises people with disabilities will not be prioritized for limited resources.

To build a #HealthierTomorrow where nobody is left behind, people with intellectual disabilities must be included in and informed of climate risk plans and policies.

Inclusive Well-Being Societies must be safe and free from discrimination:

Doctors are often the people we turn to when we need help. But what happens when a person is made eligible for an assisted death when they need help – all because they have a disability?

We recently developed a document called Must Medical Practitioners Refer for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) Under Canada’s Newly Amended Assisted Dying Legislation? A Statement of Principle Grounded in Disability Rights.

In it, we outline that all people need to be safe to share their suffering so that they can get the help that they need to heal and thrive. When a person who is not dying wants to die, medical practitioners should be permitted to compassionately push back and find another way to end suffering, even if the person wanting to die has a disability. Medical practitioners should not be punished for not being willing to discriminate against people with disabilities.

Duty-to-refer standards make this challenging in some provinces. The duty-to-refer requires medical professionals to refer a person for a MAiD assessment even if they do not recommend MAiD for that person at that time.

To build a #HealthierTomorrow, healthcare needs to be safe for everyone, and free from discrimination.

This World Health Day, Canada, let’s envision Inclusive Well-Being Societies, and let’s take action.