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.
Adopt a resolution or other policy statement endorsing the importance of addressing health disparities experienced by children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Engage in partnerships with disability organizations to plan and implement inclusive health activities to reduce health disparities among people with intellectual disabilities.
Encourage other professional associations to work towards inclusive health by sharing successes and lessons learned with other organizations.