People with intellectual disabilities are at increased risk for poor health outcomes and are a high priority population for reducing health disparities. The lack of health care provider training on disability has been highlighted in recent literature as a key, modifiable determinant of the health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities.
The National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine (NCIDM) supports multiple medical schools to implement curriculum about health care for people with intellectual disabilities through a multi-year partnership between the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry and Special Olympics International, with resources from a cooperative agreement funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University of Louisville School of Medicine (ULSOM) was selected as part of the first cohort of NCIDM Medical School Partners.
To integrate the voices of people with intellectual disabilities into the medical school curriculum, ULSOM chose to engage in a Photovoice project designed to highlight advice from people with intellectual disabilities to medical students and include their perspectives about health. ULSOM and University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences faculty worked with self-advocates from Special Olympics Kentucky’s Athlete Leadership Program for about ten months, supporting them in completing a Photovoice project. Photovoice is a qualitative technique in which participants take photos related to a central theme and narrate their photos in a later interview. The athlete leaders presented the findings that emerged from their photos and interviews to all second-year medical students during 2-hour, interactive discussion sessions. Additionally, through partnering with Lee Specialty Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic serving adults with intellectual disabilities, an ongoing elective for fourth-year medical students now provides future physicians with the opportunity to work with people with intellectual disabilities. To learn more, view the complete case study here.