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Life can change in an instant. Without notice, an acute illness or injury can result in life-altering disability with a rippling effect that extends far beyond the individual and years into the future.

The World Health Organization estimates that, in 2011, 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. Of the one billion people living with disability, more are women and between 110 and 190 million have severe functional impairment. The most vulnerable and underserved population is those who suffer acutely from loss of functionality and drastic change in social role as they transition home from the hospital.

Yet, this experience is not well understood; most measures quantify death, readmissions and burden without truly considering quality of life and different influences in the surrounding system. What can we do to address this?

Our vision with this Bass Connections project is to establish a Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) to examine disability from multiple perspectives and cultures. This Alliance leverages faculty across Duke University’s campus, along with their international collaborations, to involve students at different levels to conduct a comparative assessment of experiences and needs of those with disabilities. This Alliance and foundation of knowledge will support the development of innovative interdisciplinary approaches to promote functional independence, community re-integration and an improved quality of life after an acute injury or illness.

Check out our project housed in the Duke Global Health Institute through Duke’s Bass Connections projects!