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With telehealth, rehabilitation services continue during pandemic

Covid-19 Rehabilitation

Covid-19 has presented numerous challenges, changing the way Humanity & Inclusion teams around the world work with the communities we serve. One of those challenges was figuring out how to safely continue providing rehabilitation to people with disabilities. The answer in many places? Telehealth.

Collage of three images. On the left and right a young girl sits in a special chair that helps her posture. In the middle the young girl and her mother practice physical therapy exercises

Priti sits in her special chair to help her posture while eating and playing. At center, her mother helps her with exercises during a telerehabilitation session. Inline image: A CBRB Prosthetist and Orthotist teaches a woman to re-learn to walk, gain balance, strength and mobility with their new prosthetic device in a parallel bar at the rehabilitation center. | © CBRB / HI

For instance, take Priti, a 3-year-old girl living with cerebral palsy in Nepal. Doctors suggest she do regular physical therapy sessions to improve her condition, but her parents find it difficult to afford treatment on top of other living expenses.

A community member and former patient referred Priti to Community Based Rehabilitation Biratnagar (CBRB), a local partner organization of Humanity & Inclusion, for physical therapy and assistive devices.

Priti completed three physical therapy sessions at the center and received a specialized chair that helps stabilize her body and maintain upright sitting posture. She can also use the chair during daily activities like playing and eating.

Then, as the second wave of Covid -19 swept through Nepal reinstating travel restrictions, Priti completed four telerehabilitation sessions by video. Physical therapists gave Priti’s family advice on continuing home exercise to help Priti grow stronger and checked on the condition of her chair.

“It was difficult for me to continue regular exercises on my own during this pandemic as I could not remember techniques taught by the physical therapist,” says Priti’s mother. “With regular video calls, I am satisfied and happy with the services that helped me to continue exercises."

After three months of regular rehabilitation services, specialists have noticed that Priti’s neck is growing stronger and that her arms and legs are more flexible.

Many people living with disabilities, like Priti, lack access to regular follow-up services that they need because of Covid-19 safety measures and travel restrictions.  

“Through the provision of telerehabilitation, another easy way of reaching out to the individuals who need such services, we tried better at our level,” explains Rinki Adhikari, CBRB physical therapist. She added that telerehabilitation can be an alternative way of making rehabilitation services accessible for people in the future.

A CBRB staff member wearing a white coat stands next to a woman walking between parallel bars with a prosthetic leg. Both women are wearing masks.

Humanity & Inclusion’s Covid-19 response in Nepal

These physical rehabilitation activities are supported by USAID and managed by Humanity & Inclusion. The program supports the establishment of a sustainable, integrated, public-private rehabilitation system in order to improve the mobility and functional independence of victims of conflict as well as other adults and children in need of rehabilitation services in Nepal.

With Covid-19, the program has adapted to offer telehealth services and distribute information to prevent the spread of coronavirus. So far:

  • 922 audio messages have been broadcast in four different languages on the radio
  • 257 accessible video messages have been broadcast in four different languages on television
  • 10,726 posters and leaflets have been delivered to government and rehabilitation stakeholders
  • Health workers have received 275 sets of personal protective equipment; 16,750 pairs of gloves; 32,500 masks; 62 gallons of disinfectant; and 19 gallons of hand sanitizer
  • 7,067 physical therapy sessions have been conducted, including 3,390 telerehabilitation sessions
  • 483 assistive devices have been provided to people with disabilities or injuries
  • 678 people received essential medical items
  • Specialists have offered guidance to government officials related to inclusive health and rehabilitation and to rehabilitation care for people with Covid-19
Date published: 03/27/21


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