Health system access challenges of people with disabilities increased during Covid-19 pandemic

Disabil Health J. 2023 Jan 26;101446. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2023.101446. Online ahead of print.


Background: People with disabilities (PWDs) have unequal access to health services compared with the general population and this disparity is worsening during the Covid-19 pandemic. Evidence supports the importance of policy development and legislation for addressing the unmet health needs of PWDs, but little is known about the impact of these efforts in Ghana.

Objective: This study examined health system experiences of PWDs in Ghana within the context of existing disability legislation and related policies prior to and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Methods: Narrative analysis of data from qualitative research approaches of focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, and participant observations were used to examine the experiences of fifty-five PWDs, four staff of the Department of Social Welfare, and six leaders of disability-focused non-governmental organizations in Ghana.

Results: Structural and system barriers hinder PWDs access to health services. Bureaucratic bottlenecks hinder PWDs access to Ghana's free health insurance policy and health workers' disability stigma impedes accessibility to health services.

Conclusions: Access barriers and disability stigma increased accessibility challenges for PWDs in Ghana's health system during the Covid-19 pandemic. My findings support the need for increased efforts toward making Ghana's health system more accessible to address health disparities experienced by PWDs.

Keywords: Access; Covid-19; Health equity; People with disability; Stigma.