Original Research

Surviving spinal cord injury in low income countries

Tone Øderud
African Journal of Disability | Vol 3, No 2 | a80 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v3i2.80 | © 2014 Tone Øderud | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 July 2013 | Published: 26 August 2014

About the author(s)

Tone Øderud, SINTEF Technology and Society, Oslo, Norway


Background: Mortality rates from injuries are higher for people from poorer economic backgrounds than those with higher incomes (according to the World Health Organization [WHO]), and health care professionals and organisations dealing with people with disabilities experience that individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) in low income countries face serious challenges in their daily lives.

Objectives: The aims of this study were to explore life expectancy (life expectancy is the average remaining years of life of an individual) and the situation of persons living with SCI in low income settings.

Method: 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.

Results: 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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