Public health, innovation, intellectual property and trade

Priority Assistive Products List (APL)

WHO estimates that today, more than one billion people need assistive technology. With a global ageing population and rise in noncommunicable diseases, this number will rise beyond two billion by 2050, with many older people needing two or more products as they age.

Assistive technology enables people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives; to participate in education, the labour market and social life. It can reduce the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the burden on caregivers. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated and locked into poverty; also increasing the impact and the burden of morbidity and disability.

Today only 1 in 10 people have access to assistive technology, due to a lack of financing, availability, awareness, trained personnel, and high costs. There are already large underserved populations for basic assistive products such as hearing aids, even in high-income countries. Where available, an astonishingly high proportion of assistive products are abandoned by users (estimates run as high as 75%). This represents a wider system failure and lack of appropriate policy across the world.

More than 10000 participants from 160 countries gave their verdict – selected 50 most priority assistive products. Survey result will be discussed in the forthcoming APL consensus meeting in Geneva on 21 and 22 March 2016. The APL will be published during the forthcoming 68 World Health Assembly.

The new WHO Priority Assistive Products List (APL), much like its precursor Essential Medicines List, will be a critical tool to make these products accessible to increasingly older populations and to people with disabilities everywhere.

The proposed list is not a restrictive list but aims to provide Member States with a model from which to develop national priority assistive products list; according to national need and available resources. Like the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, the Priority Assistive Products List will also provide guidance for procurement and reimbursement policies, including insurance coverage.

The ultimate aim of the list is to develop assistive technology service delivery system as an integral part of the universal health coverage to increase access to assistive technology for one billion people who need them today, and to reach 1.5 billion by 2030 – leaving no one behind.