Poverty and Disability – A Critical Review of the Literature in Low and Middle-Income Countries

Peer-reviewed article
(2019 Nov) Leonard Cheshire Research Centre Working Paper Series, 3


Nora Groce, Gayatri Kembhavi, Shelia Wirz, Raymond Lang, Jean-Francois Trani, Maria Kett


While it is widely assumed that disability, poverty and health are closely linked, this is the first critical review on the subject that explicitly asks: ‘What is the current evidence base for the link between poverty, disability and health in low- and middle-income countries? The methods used have been adapted from the EPPI Centre (EPPI-Centre, 2007) and the work of Greenhalgh (Greenhalgh, Robert, Macfarlane, Bate, Kyriakidou, & Peacock, 2005) A total of 964 papers were identified and, of these, 293 were selected for further review based on appropriateness of fit. An initial review of the 293 papers, paying particular attention to those papers that presented an evidence base, found only 27 papers (9.2% of total papers reviewed) met the established inclusion criteria for a critical review. Widening these inclusion criteria did not produce significantly more evidence-based papers for review. Thus, the most significant finding from this study is the current lack of strong evidence on the links between disability, poverty and health in LMICs upon which to build global policy and programming. Within the group of papers available for review, we identify a small but growing evidence base that indicates that there are substantial links between disability, poverty and health; however emerging research indicates that these links are more complex and nuanced than is currently assumed. We conclude with a call for more attention to building an evidence base on the interactions between disability, poverty and health. The absence of a robust evidence base that explicitly links these issues, in conjunction with the lack of appropriate benchmarks and indicators to measure disability rights commitments (including poverty reduction), will otherwise result in a “democratic deficit”.

Livelihood & Social Protection