Case Studies

Health Partners: A Partnered Approach to Health Promotion

Women on Hungary's Soccer/Football Team Celebrate During the Unified Sports Experience at the Special Olympics World Games, Los Angeles, 2015


For people with intellectual disabilities, maintaining health and wellness is essential to being self-sufficient, achieving or maintaining independence, participating in society, and preventing the onset of secondary health conditions. Yet people with intellectual disabilities typically have poorer health than the general population and higher rates of obesity and physical inactivity. Data from the Kentucky National Core Indicators survey found that in Kentucky, over 70% of adults with intellectual disabilities are overweight or obese, and only 19% engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise for at least 3 days a week.


Social relationships play an important role in achieving and sustaining healthy behavior changes, providing encouragement, motivation, and accountability. Knowing this, researchers at the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute set out to develop an inclusive health promotion program to help people with intellectual disabilities that also would work for anyone. To do this, they worked with universal design experts to incorporate a partner approach.


An inclusive health promotion program called Health Partners was created by adapting the Healthy Lifestyles for People with Disabilities curriculum out of the Oregon Health and Science University. Health Partners served pairs of people (or “health partners”) that included a person with intellectual disabilities and a person without intellectual disabilities. In order to offer health promotion curriculum that met the needs of everyone, a panel of experts in universal design helped make learning methods and materials appropriate for a wide audience. To learn more, read the full case study here.