White Book on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in Europe. Chapter 2. Why rehabilitation is needed by individual and society

European Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Bodies Alliance, Stefano Negrini

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In the context of the White Book of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (PRM) in Europe, this paper describes the background to the context of PRM services and comprises the following: - Epidemiological Aspects of Functioning and Disability - Ethical Aspects and Human Rights - Rehabilitation and Health Systems - Economic Burden of Disability - Effects of Lack of Rehabilitation Health care service planning accounts for the burden of disability among society and the chapter describes the justification for specialist rehabilitation, the background of PRM and why making a functional diagnosis and a management plan based on function is its core competence. The chapter describes the increasing burden of disability due to conditions seen in PRM practice rather than on all those diseases contributing to physical disablement and does not include mental illness, learning disabilities, etc. Ten percent of Western Europe's population have a disability and are surviving longer, resulting in higher costs for health and social care and a greater impact of co-morbidities. The chapter also describes the impact and increased costs in the absence of rehabilitation. Not only is money spent on rehabilitation recovered with five to nine-fold savings (e.g. in return to work), but rehabilitation is effective in all phases of health conditions. Specialized rehabilitation (as delivered by PRM services) is highly cost-efficient for all neurological conditions, producing substantial savings in ongoing care costs, especially in high-dependency patients. Disability discrimination has been outlawed and the text describes the legal context and status of a person living in Europe with a disability. The second part highlights the United Nations Conventions on human rights, confirmed in the World Report on Disability, but also on the principles of ethical practice among PRM physicians. The third part addresses the variability of access to and funding of rehabilitation services across countries. The chapter also distinguishes highly specialist interventions (such as those provided by a PRM physician) from specialized therapies, (such as pressure ulcer management) and generic therapies (e.g. after an uncomplicated limb fracture). It will be important for healthcare authorities, public health organizations, payers, providers, healthcare professionals, consumers and the community. The economic and social burden of disability on society is considerable and will get worse, although this is difficult to quantify. Direct costs are variable and include disabled persons' additional costs for daily living and state disability benefits. Rehabilitation has a pivotal role in reducing these costs through promoting personal recovery and increasing function through altering environmental factors. This part describes cost savings studies through rehabilitation for persons with severe disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-176
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Books
  • Clinical Competence
  • Delivery of Health Care/organization & administration
  • Disabled Persons/rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Specialization/standards


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