Professional Associations
Every professional association should commit to addressing the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities and provide members with training to be fully inclusive
Wisconsin Delegation on House Speaker Paul Ryan's Balcony, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.
The Problem
  • Over 6.5 million people in the United States (U.S.) are estimated to experience an intellectual disability, based on prevalence rates of 1 to 3 percent of the total U.S. population.

    People with intellectual disabilities (ID) experience significant and life-long health disparities compared to people without disabilities. Barriers causing these disparities include delayed care due to cost and uninformed medical care, limited exercise and health promotion opportunities, and routine exclusion from community health planning.

    Yet, most health-related professional associations do not include people with disabilities -- especially ID -- as a focus of their efforts or activities, and many of their members do not receive training on disability in their academic programs. For example, only about half of accredited Master of Public Health programs include disability content in their programs. In a study conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), nearly 70% of local health departments said they needed additional training on inclusive health practices.

Our pursuit of health equity, of the breaking down of barriers that stand between any people and their achievement of their own optimal health, will only be as successful as our ability to intentionally include all people who live in the shadows of those barriers in our efforts to remove them. Inclusion is an intentional and active process.
Tom Quade, APHA Immediate Past President
What You Can Do About It
Health-related professional associations can better serve their communities and achieve health equity for all by providing education and training to their members on intellectual disability and health topics, and providing guidance to their individual members for how to advocate for the full inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in their fields. Strategies include:
Acknowledge the existing disparities

Adopt a resolution or other policy statement endorsing the importance of addressing health disparities experienced by children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Educate your members

Conduct professional education, training, and information dissemination activities to increase members’ knowledge about disability, health disparity topics and strategies to address the needs of people with intellectual disabilities.

Advocate for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Encourage individual members of health-related professional associations to advocate within their fields for the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities as a population of focus. Encourage them to conduct their professional activities in ways that are socially, behaviorally, programmatically, and environmentally accessible to people with intellectual disabilities.

Advocate for curricular changes

Provide leadership and advocate for curricular changes in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral training for health-related professions to include inclusive health practices and community health planning for people with intellectual disabilities.

Advocate for changes in training programs

Join with other health-related professional associations to advocate with education accrediting bodies about the importance of addressing the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities in health-related training programs.

Create game-changing partnerships

Engage in partnerships with disability organizations to plan and implement inclusive health activities to reduce health disparities among people with intellectual disabilities.

Share your successes

Encourage other professional associations to work towards inclusive health by sharing successes and lessons learned with other organizations.

Featured Resources
The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is the national medical society representing more than 8,000 physicians who are specialists in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation
The American Academy of Pediatrics is dedicated to the health of all children.
For science. For action. For health.
The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) is the nation’s accrediting body for state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments. PHAB seeks to advance the quality and performance of public health departments by setting standards that define the expectations for accreditation. Through collaboration with Special Olympics, PHAB has committed to using its national platform to advance intentional inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. In September 2017, PHAB published a Tip Sheet on how health departments can identify opportunities to include people with ID in their programs as they prepare for accreditation or reaccreditation.
Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science. Its award-winning newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter, is the largest-circulation health newsletter in North America, providing reliable information on nutrition and health.