Health Disparities and Health Care Access Inequities Prevail Among Persons with Disabilities

Susan Havercamp, PhD
Ohio State University

People with disabilities have worse health and face barriers to accessing health care compared to people without disabilities. Large-scale health surveillance efforts have largely excluded adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Having accurate health surveillance data is essential to making changing policies and practices to improve the health of people with disabilities.

What did you do in your research?
This study compared the health status, health risks, and preventative health care in a national sample across three groups of adults: No Disability (n=312,144), Disability (n=132,812), and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (n=20,395). Data were drawn from the 2010 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey and the National Core Indicators Consumer Survey.

What did you find out?
Compared to the No Disability group, the Disability group was more likely to smoke, to be obese, to be sedentary, and to have inadequate emotional support. The IDD group, compared to the No Disability group, was less likely to smoke but more likely to be obese, sedentary, and to have inadequate emotional support. Both disability groups were more likely to report poor overall health compared to the no disability group.

In terms of access to health care, adults in both disability groups reported better access to an annual physical exam and flu shots but worse access to cervical and breast cancer screening. The Disability group was less likely to have seen a dentist in the past year but the IDD group was more likely to have seen a dentist compared to the No Disability group. The opposite pattern was found for prostate cancer screening with the IDD group being significantly less likely to access this service.

What are the take-home messages?
The high rate of health risks among people with disability and IDD found in this study and the known association between health risk, health outcomes, and quality of life suggests that efforts should be directed toward promoting the health of people with disability in programs and through individual service plans that could include health education and promotion goals. This study also demonstrated clear inequities in health access for people with disability. The authors note the lack of professional training on disability for health care practitioners and make the case for a core curriculum element on disability for physicians, nurses, and allied health providers.

To learn more about these findings contact Susan Havercamp.

The
Ohio Disability and Health Program (ODHP) is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded state program with the goals to promote health, improve emergency preparedness, and increase access to care for Ohioans with disabilities.

Resources
Two continuing education trainings on disability are available online. These courses are free and approved for continuing education by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for physicians, nurses, certified health education specialists and other health professionals.

Part I: Persons with Physical and Sensory Disabilities To learn more about the health and healthcare issues for people who have mobility and sensory disabilities (including people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids, are blind, or Deaf), click the link below. You will first be taken to a pre-test you must complete before beginning the course.

Part II: Persons with Developmental Disabilities To learn more about health issues and barriers to healthcare for people with developmental disabilities (including intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, and cerebral palsy), click the HERE. You will first be taken to a pre-test you must complete before beginning the course.

Full Journal Article
Havercamp, S. M., & Scott, H. M. (2015). National health surveillance of adults with disabilities, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and adults with no disabilities. Disability and Health Journal, 8(2), 165-172.