Currently, more than one billion people worldwide need assistive products; a number projected to more than double by 2050 due to shifting demographic and health trends, including a rapidly ageing global population and a rise in noncommunicable diseases. However, only 1 in 10 people worldwide have access to appropriate assistive products. Workforce shortages have been identified as one of the biggest reasons for such poor access. WHO recognizes that trained personnel are essential for the proper assessment, fitting, user training, and follow-up of assistive products. Without these four key steps, assistive products are often of no benefit or abandoned, and may cause physical harm. Many countries however face significant challenges in deploying a workforce to implement these four steps.
In order to improve access to assistive products at community- level, WHO is creating the Training in Priority Assistive Products (TAP), a series of e-learning modules that will build the skills and capacity of primary healthcare workforce to safely and effectively provide basic assistive products. The online modules will be supported by mentoring and supervision mechanisms. TAP will cover the key provision steps (select, fit, use and follow-up) for 25 basic products selected from the Priority Assistive Products List. These 25 assistive products address different functional areas, such as cognition, communication, vision, hearing, continence and mobility.
The first three modules - walking aids, introduction to vision and reading glasses were piloted in Bangalore in February 2018. The pilot aimed at evaluating the TAP learning materials, the acceptability and feasibility of the approach, as well as the methodology used throughout the pilot. TAP was well received by community health and rehabilitation workers from three local organizations. Findings from the pilot helped to identify barriers and facilitators for the future implementation of the TAP.