April 9, 2002 --
Disability status is typically equated with health status. "The health and well-being of people with disabilities has been addressed primarily in a medical care, rehabilitation, and long-term care financing context," says the National Centers for Disease Control, which is now making an effort to include people with disabilities in its entire public health agenda.
Its "Healthy People 2010" program, a set of health objectives for the nation released in January, 2000, now includes objectives for people with disabilities. ("Healthy People 2000" did not have a chapter specifically establishing public health objectives for people with disabilities.) HP 2010's Chapter 6, on health issues of people with disabilities in the U.S., is available online at http://www.health.gov/healthypeople/Document/HTML/Volume1/06Disability.htm
"More than 54 million Americans experience some limitation in their activities as a result of chronic health problems," says HP2010. "This prevalence of activity limitations or disability will likely increase by about 50% by the year 2010 due to overall increased survival and life expectancy among the very young and aging population, thanks to public health successes in preventing premature death and improved medical and assistive technology." It's a misconception that "all people with disabilities automatically have poor health," says the report, and includes environmental barriers among things that undermine the "health, well-being, and participation in life activities" of people with disabilities.
Objectives set by the project include:
- reducing the number of people with disabilities in congregate care facilities;
- eliminating disparities in employment rates between working-aged adults with and without disabilities;
- increasing the proportion of children and youth with disabilities who spend at least 80 percent of their time in regular education programs;
- increasing the proportion of health and wellness and treatment programs and facilities that provide full access for people with disabilities;
- reducing the proportion of people with disabilities who report not having the assistive devices and technology they need, and
- reducing environmental barriers to participation in home, school, work, or community activities.
Read more about the CDC's Disability and Health project at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dh/