Why HealthMeet®?  The Need for Health Promotion

People with intellectual disabilities (ID) tend to be less healthy than the general population and are at increased risk for many preventable and treatable conditions, including:

  • Difficulty hearing or seeing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart disease
  • Being very overweight
  • Seizures, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mental health and problems with behavior
  • Problems with teeth and gums[1]
  • Poor bone health, including frequent fractures
  • Stomach and digestion problems, including cancer[2]
  • Dangerous infections such as hepatitis and tuberculosis[3]
  • Skin conditions
  • Problems with their lungs, such as pneumonia
  • Trauma[4]

Being healthy means more than simply not suffering from a disease. A person’s health is a matter of their physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Disability is not equivalent to poor health, and therefore health disparities are frequently not related to an individual’s disability at all.  Instead, people with ID suffer from health disparities because they face many obstacles when they try to get the quality health care they need. These barriers include:

  • Lack of accessible information about healthy habits, or not enough help in navigating of health care systems and insurance plans
  • The cost of attending regular medical checkups and following up with a health provider on any risks identified during a checkup
  • Lack of health plan benefits and other insurance-related obstacles to high-quality care and choosing the right provider
  • Lack of communication training for health professionals, making interactions with people with ID difficult
  • Too much emphasis on someone’s disability in their health care, leading health professionals to skip routine screenings for common diseases or preventable health issues
  • Discrimination and stigma associated with disability

Problems with insurance coverage contribute to health disparities. People with ID who have public insurance plans such as Medicaid face particularly poor health outcomes. Forty percent of people with significant disabilities who have public insurance plans report that they do not have a regular physician. 65% need at least one medication they cannot afford on their own. 45% report that they are not satisfied with how their care is provided— 40% actually rate the quality of their care as only fair or poor. 72% of people with significant disabilities who have public insurance plans say that they had had an unmet medical need in the past year.[5] Because one-third of people with ID who are covered by Medicaid report that they are on a waiting list for health services, unmet needs are frequently left unaddressed for long periods of time. Many people with ID who have Medicaid coverage have to wait more than five years. The Arc estimates that there are more than one million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities waiting for services that may never come.[6]

Many people with ID suffer from health disparities that can easily be treated or prevented. People with ID have problems with their teeth, eyes, and ears, and many do not eat well and do not get regular exercise. While people with disabilities commonly use health care services more than the general population, people with disabilities use preventive services such as routine teeth cleanings, eye and ear exams, and breathing tests less often. This helps explain why people with disabilities experience a higher rate of preventable conditions.[7]


Sources

[1] National Council on Disability. “The Current State of Health Care for People With Disabilities.” Sept. 30, 2009. http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2009/Sept302009

[2] Haveman, Meindert et. Al. “Ageing and Health Status in Adults with Intellectual Disabilities: Results of the European POMONA II Study.” Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability. March 2011; (36) 1: 49-60.http://www.pomonaproject.org/haveman_perry.pdf

[3] Ouellette-Kuntz, Helene. “Understanding Health Disparities and Inequities Faced by Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.” Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. 2005, 18, 113-121.

[4] Krahn, Hammond and Turner. “A Cascade of Disparities: Health and Health Care Access for People with Intellectual Disabilities.” Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews. 12: 70-82 (2006).

[5] Gulley, Stephen P. and Barbara M. Altman.  “Disability in two health care systems: Access, quality, satisfaction, and physician contacts among working-age Canadians and Americans with disabilities.” Disability and Health Journal vol. 1 (2008) 196-208.

[6] The Arc’s FINDS Survey: Out of the Shadows, into the Light. 2011. http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=3673

[7] Gulley, Stephen P. and Barbara M. Altman.  “Disability in two health care systems: Access, quality, satisfaction, and physician contacts among working-age Canadians and Americans with disabilities.” Disability and Health Journal vol. 1 (2008) 196-208.