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Advocating for disability-inclusive health care

Posted: 28 September 2023

Alumni, Disability inclusion,

Alumna Su Su Tun is helping drive a more disability-inclusive health sector for Myanmar.

Su Su Tun has worked in health and disaster risk management as an advocate for inclusive practices and policies for people with disability since 2013.

She says, “People with disability need to have equal access to healthcare and it is crucial for service providers to be advocates for disability-inclusive health care and to ensure services and facilities are accessible.”

People with disability in Myanmar encounter barriers in accessing necessary health and rehabilitation services. The COVID-19 pandemic and the instability in 2021 brought people with disability more challenges in accessing essential services.

Su Su Tun is managing projects designed to empower people with disability and their organisations by contributing to equal access to basic social services and strengthening local policy-making processes.

In the health sector, Su Su Tun has worked in physiotherapy and rehabilitation for people with disability, including providing caregiver training and negotiating with local and state authorities and other stakeholders as an advocate for inclusion. Su Su Tun’s work within disaster risk reduction has been equally rewarding, including developing training resources and programs in inclusive disaster risk management.

Her broad experience working in the disability field led her to pursue a Master of Disability Policy from Flinders University in 2019 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

“The on-the-job skills I received through my advanced work placement in Australia have certainly built up my confidence and skills in disability inclusion,” she says.

Su Su Tun has recently taken a role working as a Program Management Senior Officer (Disability Inclusion & Cross Cutting) for the Access to Health Fund with the United Nations Office for Project Services. The Access to Health Fund (the Fund) aims to increase access of vulnerable populations to better and more relevant health services, strengthen health systems, and increase social cohesion. Disability inclusion is mainstreamed across the Fund to ensure that people with disability can access necessary health services. The Fund promotes disability-inclusive health practices, viewing people with disability as active partners.

Su Su Tun is responsible for the management of grants and programs on disability inclusion and cross-cutting themes such as gender equality; community feedback; prevention of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse; emergency preparedness and response; conflict sensitivity; and social cohesion. The Fund focuses mainly on the most underserved and vulnerable populations of the country through a rights-based and inclusive approach.

Su Su Tun says, “I’ve been providing technical inputs on disability-inclusive health to the Fund and its implementing partners.” This work includes the provision of necessary rehabilitation services to people with disability, awareness raising in communities and with key stakeholders, ensuring that emergency referral support and essential health services are available and accessible to people with disability, and providing health education in accessible formats.

However, there are challenges in working for disability inclusion. These include the scarcity of resources and limited number of service providers for disability-related health. There are many people with disability in the community who need physical rehabilitation and assistive devices; however, in certain regions these people face service gaps.

Despite the challenges, Su Su Tun is dedicated to advocating for partner organisations in the non-profit sector to integrate disability inclusion and social inclusion in their policies and to involve people with disability in their activities and interventions.