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Surviving spinal cord injury in low income countries

ODEROD, Tone
August 2014

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Life expectancy and the situation of persons living with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in low income settings was explored. Mortality rates from injuries and challenges in daily lives of people with injuries from poorer economic backgrounds are were investigated and are compared with those with higher incomes. Literature studies and qualitative methods were used. Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 23 informants from four study sites in Zimbabwe representing persons with SCI, their relatives and rehabilitation professionals.

There are few publications available about life expectancy and the daily life of persons with SCI in low income countries. Those few publications identified and the study findings confirm that individuals with SCI are experiencing a high occurrence of pressure sores and urinary tract infections leading to unnecessary suffering, often causing premature death. Pain and depression are frequently reported and stigma and negative attitudes are experienced in society. Lack of appropriate wheelchairs and services, limited knowledge about SCI amongst health care staff, limited access to health care and rehabilitation services, loss of employment and lack of financial resources worsen the daily challenges.

Conclusion: The study indicates that life expectancy for individuals with SCI in low income settings is shorter than for the average population and also with respect to individuals with SCI in high income countries. Poverty worsened the situation for individuals with SCI, creating barriers that increase the risk of contracting harmful pressure sores and infections leading to premature death. Further explorations on mortality and how individuals with SCI and their families in low income settings are coping in their daily life are required to provide comprehensive evidences.

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