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AHP International conference: ‘Seize the moment’ and press for rehab services, delegates urged

9 October 2013 - 11:35am

A British physiotherapist who plays a key role in an international aid organisation has highlighted the lack of rehabilitation services for people in developing countries.

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Antony Duttine of Handicap International. Photo: Simon Forsythe

A key speaker at the international allied health professions conference in Edinburgh, Antony Duttine is a technical adviser in global health with Handicap International, a 30-year-old organisation operating in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster.

Mr Duttine, who is based in the organisation’s office in Washington, DC, summed up the message he would give to health workers who might have worked heroically to save lives in such situations. ‘Congratulations: you have prevented a death, but what happens next?’

He said the origins of Handicap International lay in Cambodia, where surgeons were saving lives by amputating people’s limbs following injuries from land mines. Its creators, who were based in France, realised that little help was available to enable survivors to live with their disabilities afterwards.

Handicap International now works with disabled and vulnerable people in more than 60 countries and, Mr Duttine explained, employs 3,000 people locally.

Providing long-term support

Mr Duttine, who spent five years as an NHS physio in Gloucestershire and two years as a VSO volunteer in Namibia before joining Handicap International in 2009, has subsequently worked in Afghanistan.

He gave a presentation on global health and rehab issues at last month’s high-level meeting of the UN general assembly on disability and development.

Mr Duttine said that is was vital to ‘join up the dots’ and ensure that long-term rehabilitation services were available in the aftermath of conflicts and emergencies such as earthquakes.

Too often, he said, the provision of care and rehabilitation were seen as ‘luxuries that could not be afforded’. But, thanks in part to lobbying by organisations such as his own, policymakers and politicians were beginning to see the value of providing long-term support.

Now was the time to take advantage of this shift in perspective, said Mr Duttine, urging the international allied health professionals delegates to help ‘seize the moment’.

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