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Measuring GAPPA and people with disabilities

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Measuring GAPPA and people with disabilities

Kwok Ng explores how the erasure of people with disabilities starts at a data collection and census level, leading to a failure in setting policies for the promotion of their physical health and well-being.

Promoting physical activity to people with disabilities is a very important job. Physical inactivity has a high cost in terms of co-morbid conditions, shorten lifespan, and being physically active can improve a persons’ mental, social and physical health.

As the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA) strives to advocate physical activity opportunities for all people, there is a need to monitor and captures its progress. One of the targets is to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by 2030. This target is a relative reduction, which means, that if the population has 30% inactivity, then the target would be to be to have a 27% inactive population, a net difference of 3%, and if 50% of a population was inactive, then the target would be 45%, or a 5% net difference.

As policy makers and practitioners bounce around these numbers, they often fail to include people with disabilities. This is often not a fault of the people who report these statistical figures, rather a problem exists with the way the data collected does not include measures that disaggregate by disabilities.

According to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, Article 31 – statistics and data collection, each state party must take responsibility to collect, maintain and disseminate data so that appropriate policies can take place. In general, many countries fail on this point, let alone on disability and physical activity statistics. Action must be taken to ensure that relative percent of change of people with disabilities is known, so that resources and programmes can be implemented efficiently.

One disability data tool is the Washington Group in Disability Statistics (WG) toolkit for surveys. The WG is a leading organisation that develops suitable survey instruments for the census and national surveys. The approached used by the WG is to ask individuals their functional difficulties, and not their condition. This has been seen as an effective method to collect data on people with disabilities that would normally not be included in the census, especially in countries where there is a stigma towards people with disabilities.

The WG has been translated into multiple languages and tested in many settings, including the global south. There was also a collaboration with UNICEF to bring the Child Functioning Module (CFM) that can be used by parents or teachers, and some of my work has been to examine the usability of self-reported measures from the CFM. It is this self-report method that I believe has the most strength and impact to make on the lives of people with disabilities, as the children can also report other aspects of their lives that parents would not know about.

For example, in many cases, parents do not know what type of physical activity or sports their child may like to do. Parents may feel their child likes to take part in some kind of sport, but in fact the child may like to be with their friends doing another activity or sport. Parents may think the child is being physically active during physical education in school, but instead is being told to attend a different type of lesson. Unfortunately, these types of discrepancies are not uncommon.

Yet, when a child reports their own levels of physical activity there is more meaning that can be associated with it. It is therefore essential that we find a right set of measures that we can use to collect data and disaggregate by disabilities. It is then that it makes it possible to provide accurate estimates that can be used to drive policies and health promotion activities as reporting of targets become more realistic.

Kwok Ng, PhD, is an Adjunct Professor in Health Promotion and Adapted Physical Activity and is Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology at the University of Eastern Finland, Finland and the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Ireland. 

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Friday, November 20, 2020 - 12:26

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