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Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit Awarded $39.5 Million USAID Grant to Lead Global Initiative on Strengthening Health Systems for Rehabilitation

Bloomberg School-based center will lead international consortium to address unmet need for rehabilitation across the lifespan in low- and middle-income countries

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has received a $39.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to strengthen rehabilitation services in low- and middle-income countries. The five-year grant is financed by USAID’s Leahy War Victims Fund, which focuses on increasing the availability of and access to quality sustainable services for victims of conflict, persons with disabilities, and other people who would benefit from these services in conflict-affected countries.

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, based in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health, will work with a consortium of global collaborators to strengthen health systems so that they can be responsive to rehabilitation needs across the lifespan. The program—known as Learning, Acting and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS)—aims to improve the quality of life, functionality, and independence through simple interventions at the primary care level and the use of technology to bring rehabilitation closer to where affected individuals live.

An estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide have health conditions that could benefit from rehabilitation, according to the World Health Organization. In low- and middle-income countries, more than half of those who could benefit from rehabilitation do not receive it. The need for rehabilitation services is projected to grow significantly over the next 30 years, as the population of those over 60 increases, coupled with a rise in the number of individuals living with chronic disease, according to the United Nations. In addition, an estimated 150 million children and adolescents across the globe experience disabilities or conditions that could benefit from rehabilitation.

“Rehabilitation is often overlooked, despite its essential role in providing services that help individuals lead full and independent lives,” says Bloomberg School Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, ScM. “With USAID’s generous support, this project will be equipped to directly address the critical need for more reliable data and customized rehabilitative care around the world, with an emphasis on access at the local level.”

The consortium includes collaborators with expertise in rehabilitation and health systems: University of Melbourne Nossal Institute for Global Health, Humanity and Inclusion, Miracle Feet, Physiopedia, and UCP Wheels for Humanity. The program will focus on building local and international leadership, crafting and implementing local, demand-driven approaches and innovations, and working largely in communities and home settings, implementing real and relevant rehabilitation and policy solutions.

“Our team has long focused its expertise on addressing the chronic consequences of disease, including injuries and noncommunicable diseases that benefit from rehabilitation services across the lifespan in low- and middle-income countries,” says Abdulgafoor M. Bachani, PhD, MHS, director of the Bloomberg School’s International Injury Research Unit, who will also serve as ReLAB-HS program director. “Through this program, we’ll not only address this important global health issue head on, but also collaborate with international partners in a uniquely talented consortium.”

Through engagement with local stakeholders, the program will foster demand-driven approaches and innovations to ensure contextual relevance. Strengthening primary care services, such as community care, the program will allow individuals to receive personalized rehabilitation within local settings so they can better serve members of the community.

“By making rehabilitation services more effective and accessible, we can improve the overall health and well-being of the broader population,” says Bachani.

In addition to the project’s international consortium, the program will include Johns Hopkins faculty Stephen Wegener, PhD, MA, Director of Rehabilitation Psychology and Neuropsychology in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and David Peters, MD, DrPH, MPH, Edgar Berman Chair in International Health and director of the Alliance for a Healthier World at Johns Hopkins University.

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Media contacts: Eric Schulman at eschulm2@jhu.edu and Brandon Howard at brandonhoward@jhu.edu.