We believe that adolescents and young people with disabilities and their caregivers have the power to transform their lives. They have the ability to raise their voices against inequality, discrimination, and exclusion. We believe that we need to work alongside the systems within communities that hold them accountable to effect sustainable change.
Adolescents are often underrepresented in many areas of the health sector, such as clinical research, medical education, social support and health policy decision-making and this is even worse with disabilities. This is due to several factors, including discriminatory social norms, cultural expectations, and unequal access to education and training opportunities.
Power dynamics disability and gender inequality have been found to have a negative influence on the health systems of many countries. Young disabled persons often experience an unequal burden due to unequal access to resources, unequal power dynamics in decision-making processes, and unequal access to decision-making positions. In countries with weak institutional structures, disability can lead to exploitative practices and corruption. This can further hinder disabled adolescent’s access to quality health care, as well as their ability to participate in decision-making processes.
Investment in adolescents and disability policies must be prioritised at all levels of participation, with a focus on increasing young people’s access to decision-making positions and health services. Additionally, strategies to strengthen institutional structures against disability and gender-based violence, as well as other patriarchal norms that lead to health inequities, are also needed. Lastly, partnerships between governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, and the community are necessary to ensure that health systems are equitable and inclusive for disabled youth.
We recognise that the health and well-being of individuals in communities are dependent on the physical, social, environmental, and economic factors present in these communities; cognisant that some communities are under-resourced and under-represented, and health inequities are evident. These communities have historically been silenced, ignored, and their trust violated with regard to economic and educational opportunities, environmental safety, and access to health care, quality healthcare service delivery, education, and their overall ability to thrive.
Addressing disability and inequality in our social health systems can help to promote equity and reduce social disparities based on gender, while also promoting the health, safety, and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.