Healthy Lifestyles Curriculum Overview

Healthy Lifestyles for People with Disabilities is a holistic wellness workshop designed for people with disabilities. The original Healthy Lifestyles for People with Disabilities workshop curriculum was developed under the Disabled and Healthy Project in 1998 by a work group composed of people with disabilities and professionals from the Institute on Disability and Development (IDD) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), with funding from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. The curriculum was revised and implemented by staff at the Oregon Office on Disability and Health (OODH) and Centers for Independent Living throughout Oregon from 2001-2007. Funding for the revisions came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The workshop embodies the self-determination model, and its ultimate goal is to give participants the tools they need to:

  1. evaluate their current life situations
  2. identify areas in their lives they would like to improve 
  3. make positive changes in those areas

The steps to achieving the workshop goals are laid out in four sessions. In sessions one and two, participants define a "healthy lifestyle" and identify values that are important to them. In session three, participants learn about the components of a healthy lifestyle and identify the areas that they would like to change in order to move towards a healthier lifestyle. Finally, in session four, participants learn how to make positive changes in these areas by using a goal-planning process.

In the Healthy Lifestyles workshop, the five areas of a healthy lifestyle are defined as

  • Emotional Health
  • Social Health
  • Physical Health
  • Spiritual Health/Living One's Values
  • Health through Meaningful Activities

These areas, or components, of a healthy lifestyle are embodied in a Healthy Lifestyles Wheel, a learning tool used in the workshop. The Wheel is based on current social and psychological research as well as participant input.

Historically, through OODH, Healthy Lifestyles workshops have been conducted over the course of three consecutive days. However, the format of this curriculum allows trainers to conduct the workshop in any format, i.e., modules, weekly, etc., any schedule that best meets the trainers' and the participants' needs.

Having monthly support groups for a minimum of six months after the workshop is important to the overall success of each participant. Support groups provide participants with educational opportunities, a forum to discuss their goals, and a chance to meet with the friends they made during the workshop.


The Healthy Lifestyles workshop focuses on helping participants:

  • Understand and examine their personal values, choices, and health
  • Gain knowledge about five components of a healthy lifestyle
  • Develop and follow a self-determined healthy lifestyle game plan

Healthy Lifestyles Curriculum

The curriculum includes:

  • A training guide was written for people with disabilities and provides a script, many hands-on activities and lists and suggestions to help prepare for the activities
  • Handouts for participants' notebooks
  • Useful appendices, including tips on planning a successful workshop and support groups, an unscripted training guide with citations and nutrition FAQ's
  • A CD with sample promotional materials, optional PowerPoint presentations, participant handouts in regular print, large print, and Braille, and other necessary materials

Changes to the Curriculum

The Healthy Lifestyles curriculum is an evidenced-based health promotion curriculum and we ask that the contents of the curriculum not be modified or altered.

We are, however, aware that once you have permission to implement the Healthy Lifestyles workshop that you may find it necessary to change some of the activities and/or supplemental materials in order to accommodate the needs of your workshop participants. A form to request any changes is included in Appendix C of the curriculum.


Summary of Sessions

Session 1: What is a Healthy Lifestyle?

Session one serves as a foundation for the concept of living a healthy lifestyle.

Key Goals:

  • Participants understand the meaning of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Participants begin the journey to self-discovery.

Key Activities:

  • Participants learn about the different parts of a healthy lifestyle via the Healthy Lifestyles Wheel.
  • Participants apply the concepts of the Healthy Lifestyles Wheel to their own lives.

Session 2: Knowing Who You Are

This session encourages the participant to develop his/her understanding of the underlying foundation of, and a component of, the Healthy Lifestyles Wheel: "Spiritual Health/Living One's Values." Each participant also looks at his/her needs as a person living with a disability.

Key Goals:

  • Define and identify personal values.
  • Realize personal needs for health as a person with a disability.

Key Activities:

  • Participants identify 3-5 personal values.
  • Participants engage in a guided visualization exercise to identify what they personally need to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Session 3: Knowing What You Need

This session contains many hands-on activities directed at making learning fun, exciting, and memorable. Participants learn in depth about parts of a healthy lifestyle.

Key Goals:

  • Learn in detail about the additional four components of the Healthy Lifestyles Wheel
    • Physical Health
    • Emotional Health
    • Social Health
    • Meaningful Activities
  • Apply "Staying Active" with non-impact exercise and yoga guest instructors.

Key Activities:

  • Staying Active: This section examines the value of physical activity as both a stress reducer and a way to maintain physical health. An exercise instructor visits to demonstrate exercise methods geared for people with disabilities.
  • Emotional Health: This section focuses on understanding and coping with stress, self-acceptance, and comfort with feelings. A yoga instructor visits to demonstrate breathing exercises and yoga techniques.
  • Healthy Eating: This section emphasizes the value of eating the right foods and balancing daily meals. Included is an educational and fun activity.
  • Preventing Illness: This section concentrates on disease prevention. A self-discovery activity exploring the effects of personal choices on health is included.
  • Social Health: This section includes small group discussions about the importance of relationships in a healthy lifestyle. Health through Meaningful Activity: This section explores the roles of meaningful activities in a healthy lifestyle.

Session 4: Making it Happen

In this session, participants have the opportunity to put the knowledge they gained in Sessions 1, 2, and 3 to use. They learn to use a goal-making process that encourages thoughtful goal development and the identification of community supports and resources.

Key Goals:

  • Develop specific goals.
  • Design a healthy lifestyle "game plan" with specific activities and resources.
  • Decide how to stay motivated in the quest for a healthy lifestyle.

Key Activities:

  • Participants use a process to turn their dreams into goals.
  • Participants look at what they need to achieve their goals.
  • Participants identify community resources and supports that will help them achieve their goals.
  • Participants and trainers brainstorm about factors that hinder and/or strengthen motivation.