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CDC Grant to Study Health Disparities for People with Intellectual Disabilities

December 07, 2012

DURHAM, N.H. – A new project from the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability will study health disparities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID). The “Health Disparities & Intellectual Disability” project is funded by a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is a growing body of evidence that—when compared to the general population—individuals with ID more frequently experience poor health and unmet health care needs. Scientific understanding about the causes of these disparities is limited. As a result, a systematic approach to studying these disparities and comprehensive national health surveillance for the population with ID are both needed.

To address these gaps, the “Health Disparities & Intellectual Disability” project will study the risk and protective factors associated with health disparities among individuals with and without ID. Project staff will analyze key health-related data sources and variables like leading health indicators, personal and household characteristics, service use, and barriers and facilitators within physical, social, economic, and health care environments. Through these analyses, staff will develop and estimate models to identify the factors which create health disparities.

The project will disseminate its findings to public health practitioners, administrators, and researchers with the goal of improving the capacity of current health surveillance systems to track the health and health care of people with ID. Project work will also inform health-related practices, services, and programs that influence the lives of people with ID.

“Statistics are powerful tools—in research, policymaking, program evaluation, and advocacy,” says Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., project director. “They are used to frame the issues, monitor current circumstances and progress, judge the effectiveness of policies and programs, make projections about the future, and predict the costs of potential policy changes. Having accurate and timely health statistics for people with intellectual disabilities is important for moving policies and practices forward.”

Project partners include the University of New Hampshire, the University of Kansas, and the American Association on Health and Disability. This grant is the first part of a two-part award from the CDC; the second part was awarded to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, University of Massachusetts Medical School to study interventions for reducing oral health disparities for individuals with ID.

For more information on the project, visit www.iod.unh.edu/Projects/healthdisparities_id.

The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire was established in 1987 to provide a university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. Its mission is to promote full access, equal opportunities, and participation for all persons by strengthening communities and advancing policy and systems change, promising practices, education, and research.

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.

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