More research needed to understand the use of clinical preventive service among subgroups of people with disabilities

Jana Peterson-Besse, PhD
Pacific University, Oregon

Certain medical screening and prevention services are recommended for everyone to maintain best health and catch diseases in early stages while they can be treated. Past research has shown that there are differences in use of many of these services by people with disabilities. People with disabilities are a diverse group, and we need to know which groups of people with disabilities are least likely to receive the services so that we can reach those who most need them.

What did you do in your research?
We performed a review of the literature. This means that we did not do a new study on this topic, but instead we looked for all previous relevant studies on the topic and reviewed them together. A total of 27 articles were included in this review.

What did you find out?
These research articles most often studied cervical cancer screening (Pap smears) in 14 studies and mammograms in 13 studies. There is not much research comparing subgroups of people with disabilities for many other medical services. For instance, no depression or bone density screenings were observed in these studies and prostate cancer screenings, weight checks, and diabetes screenings were only seen once. This highlights a limitation of national data sets with disability identifiers, that they do not include questions around clinical preventative services utilization. Also, these studies show that people with more severe disability may be less likely to receive a variety of medical services. However, there has not been much research done in other areas of difference that are seen in the general population, such as whether people with disabilities of different races, income levels, insurance status groups, and urban or rural geography are less likely to receive these services.

What are the take-home messages?
We do not know much about which people with disabilities receive the fewest screening and prevention services. We need further high quality research that examines subgroups of people with disabilities to understand which individuals are not receiving needed health care services in order to focus on developing appropriate interventions to ultimately increase clinical preventative service access.

To learn more about these findings contact Jana Peterson-Besse.

Full Journal Article
Peterson-Besse, J. J., O'Brien, M. S., Walsh, E. S., Monroe-Gulick, A., White, G., & Drum, C. E. (2014). Clinical preventive service use disparities among subgroups of people with disabilities: A scoping review. Disability and Health Journal, 7(4), 373-393.