Five-Year, $3.5 Million Study Aims to Promote the Health of People With Disabilities

02/24/05    Portland, Ore.


Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have been awarded a $3.5 million, five-year federal grant to find out what contributes to health disparities in people with disabilities. There are more than 50 million adults in this country who self-identify as having a disability.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research was given to the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Health & Wellness in the OHSU Child Development and Rehabilitation Center (CDRC). The center focuses on health and wellness for children and adults with disabilities.

The researchers are charged with three outcomes:

- Identifying strategies to overcome barriers that impede access to routine health care.
- Identifying interventions that promote health and wellness, such as exercise, nutrition, pain management, or complementary and alternative therapies.
- Developing a method for measuring the health status of people with disabilities.

People with a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities are more likely to experience early deaths, chronic conditions; have some of the highest rates for oral disease; and have higher rates of diabetes than adults without disabilities, according to recent studies.

"Research has shown that for adults with disabilities, physicians provided less attention to a number of preventive care services and less counseling on high-risk behaviors. At the same time, people with disabilities report that they receive cancer screening tests less often or have their cancers diagnosed later than people without disabilities. We need to find out why this is and how to change it. We want to help people with disabilities and health care providers know what they need to know identify and overcome any barriers," said RRTC Director Gloria Krahn, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine, and principal investigator.
 
"There are a number of health promotion interventions specifically geared to people with disabilities. We now have the opportunity to see what evidence basis there is for effectiveness of programs to promote the health of people with disabilities," said Charles Drum, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of public health and preventive medicine, OHSU School of Medicine; RRTC center co-director; and co-principal investigator.

Some of the barriers to getting necessary and preventive health care for people with disabilities include: transportation, economics, cognitive and cultural differences, according to center coordinator, Laura Hammond, M.P.H..

CareOregon will partner with OHSU researchers on accessing patients and clinics, and on Medicaid issues and data collection. Other partners include experts on health promotion and health status from across the country and other disability advocates and organizations.