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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Penn State: Study Examines How Access to Clean Water, Sanitation Services Impact People Living with Disabilities

Ms. Aditi Sharma, a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) student at the Penn State College of Medicine, was part of an international team examining water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs in an area of Nepal to see how different levels of access can impact people’s health and hygiene, especially individuals with disabilities.

The recently published abstract — “Are current approaches for measuring access to clean water and sanitation inclusive of people with disabilities? Comparison of individual- and household-level access between people with and without disabilities in the Tanahun district of Nepal” — reveals that households, with disabled individuals and those without, had adequate access to improved water and sanitation services. More than 80 percent said they had access to non-shared sanitation services, and more than 75 percent had access to improved or protected water. For many, the water source was not located on the premises, but is within 30 minutes away.

However, the results were different on the individual-level. For people with disabilities and/or limited self-care capabilities, data shows that they faced greater barriers related to WASH access. Of those surveyed, many encountered substantial challenges in meeting their fundamental needs, such as accessing services consistently and autonomously. On the individual-level of those who experienced barriers, some voiced concerns related to privacy, pain and abuse.

The research provides insight into the barriers people encounter in meeting their fundamental needs. Gaining a better understanding the inequalities that people face at the individual-level can inform public health initiatives, improve WASH access and prevent hygiene-related illnesses.

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