Fewer adults with IDD receive health checkups and are screened for cancer

Helene Ouellette-Kuntz, PhD
Queen's University, Canada

Regular health checkups and screenings play a crucial role in the early identification and treatment of health problems, which can slow or stop them from developing into more serious conditions. This is known as secondary prevention. Providing health care to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that includes services aimed at secondary prevention is critical, as some may lack the ability to recognize and/or communicate the early signs and symptoms of disease. Despite this, studies have found that many individuals with IDD do not receive these types of services.

What did you do in your research?
Using administrative data from the Canadian province of Ontario, we identified a large group of adults 18–64 years of age with IDD (n=66,484) and a comparison group of adults without IDD that included over 2.7 million individuals. We then compared the groups in terms of the following: 1) Proportion overall who had a health checkup over a two-year period; 2) Proportion of women 50–64 years of age who had a mammogram over a two-year period; 3) Proportion of women 18–64 years of age who had a Pap test over a three-year period; and 4) Proportion of individuals 50–64 years of age who were up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening (fecal occult blood test in previous two years, sigmoidoscopy in previous five years, or colonoscopy in previous ten years).

What did you find out?
For all four preventive health services examined, the rates were lower in the group with IDD compared to the group without IDD. The differences between the groups ranged from 4.4% for the health checkup to 33.0% for the Pap test. Less than one-quarter of adults with IDD had a health checkup over a two-year period, and the age-eligible proportions who had been screened for breast (52.2%), cervical (33.7%), and colorectal cancer (32.0%) were also suboptimal.

What are the take-home messages?
Compared to those without IDD, fewer adults with IDD in Ontario receive health checkups and are screened for cancer. This is a serious disparity, as evidence suggests that adults with IDD experience health-related problems at similar or higher rates than the general population. As primary care delivery and secondary prevention recommendations in Ontario and elsewhere continue to evolve, there is a need to monitor the impact of these changes on adults with IDD and to make efforts to increase their access to preventive health care.

To learn more about these findings contact Helene Ouellette-Kuntz. Additionally, for more information about our program of research, including updates on our work and tools for individuals with IDD, caregivers and health care providers, visit Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities.

Full Journal Article
Ouellette-Kuntz, H., Cobigo, V., Balogh, R., Wilton, A., & Lunsky, Y. (2015). The Uptake of Secondary Prevention by Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 28(1), 43–54.