Long covid and disability: a brave new world
BMJ 2022; 378 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2021-069868 (Published 01 August 2022)
Nicholas Evans and colleagues argue that long covid needs to be better recognised, understood, and supported, and should stimulate a rethink of our approach to disability
One billion people worldwide live with a disability,1 but they are often overlooked in discussions of pandemic preparedness and response.23 People with physical and cognitive disabilities—including those with “invisible” disabilities that are not obvious from the outside—were at disproportionate risk of harm from covid-19 because of their pre-existing medical conditions or their social circumstances.456 People in the UK people whose disabilities affected their day-to-day function were up to three times more likely to have died from covid-19.7 They also experienced disproportionate loss of access to medical services, education, employment, and care.8
The number of people experiencing disability is being swelled by people with “long covid,” in which symptoms persist after the acute viral infection subsides. The term “long covid” was coined by patients, initially being used on social media to describe symptoms that were impairing quality of life.9 We argue that this experience generates an obligation to recognise long covid as a potentially disabling condition defined by clinical diagnostic criteria and supported by ongoing clinical research. Such recognition would also re-enforce the obligation of the state to extend and expand supportive infrastructure and policy for people with other disabilities. The need for just social policies grounded in contemporary theories of disability, designed by disabled people for disabled people, can also form the basis for advocacy and policy change beyond the pandemic.
Part 2 to follow
Long COVID part 1.
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