Worldwide Attention on Health Inequities for People with Disabilities Stands to Finally Move the Needle from Disregard to Value of the Lives of People with Disabilities

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The World Health Organization (WHO) released the WHO Global Report on Health Equity for Persons With Disabilities on December 2, 2022, in Geneva. The report highlights longstanding health disparities experienced by over one billion people with disabilities worldwide and provides the steps to reduce them. Intellectability is tirelessly focused on reducing health inequities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities by educating those in the healthcare industry who have been entrusted with caring for people with IDD. By cultivating greater competency and removing attitudinal barriers, physicians and caregivers will have the tools necessary to provide equitable, informed care.

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Changing the healthcare system requires, first, a mindset change that the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are valuable and worth saving. The mindset change starts with education.

“How long must we be fighting for our right to living” sings musical artist Gaelynn Lea from her wheelchair at the launch of the Global Report on Health Equity of Persons with Disabilities. This sentiment has been echoed for many years in the disability world.

The WHO Global Report on Health Equity for Persons With Disabilities (1) highlights new numbers of an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide with disabilities translating to roughly 1 in 6 people experiencing a significant disability. This includes people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), estimated to encompass 10-15 million people in the United States.

This report is the third significant event in 2022, highlighting the dire need to improve the competency of health systems to deliver equitable healthcare for people with disabilities. The United States National Council on Disability released its Health Equity Framework for People with Disabilities (2) in February. In June, the Joint Commission released Sentinel Event Alert Number 65 (3), warning of the dangers of diagnostic overshadowing leading to misdiagnosis in people with disabilities.

The WHO report emphasizes that these health inequalities are not due to a person’s underlying health condition. They are due to avoidable health-related factors, including physical barriers, stigma, social determinants of health, and lack of education by clinicians to provide competent healthcare to people with IDD.

The document presents 40 actions focusing on improving the primary care healthcare approach to facilitate health equity for people with disabilities. One of the significant areas highlighted is the need to educate clinicians to improve clinical competency and remove attitudinal barriers that contribute to health disparities.

IntellectAbility, a company founded on improving health for people with IDD, has been taking action to reduce health disparities and inequities for years through its tools designed to identify often-missed health conditions and to educate all levels of supporters, including physicians, to foster greater competency and remove attitudinal barriers to health equity for people with IDD.

“Changing the healthcare system requires, first, a mindset change that the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are valuable and worth saving. The mindset change starts with education. We must educate healthcare and medical education leadership on the dire need to train providers to deliver equitable care for every human competently,” states Dr. Craig Escudé, a physician and president of IntellectAbility. “Dying up to 20 years earlier than those without disabilities from preventable causes can no longer be tolerated.”

According to the WHO, this 300-page report bolsters the missions of advocates, agencies, and organizations to make significant changes toward health equity for all. It provides direct, actionable steps that health systems and education entities should implement.

Escudé states, “The report provides a path to eliminating health inequities for people with disabilities. We can no longer say we don’t know what to do; we just have to do it.”

About IntellectAbility
IntellectAbility provides tools and training to agencies, governmental entities, and supporters of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to foster early recognition and mitigation of health risks, thereby improving health and wellness. One such tool is the Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST), of which they are the sole developer, producer, and distributor. The web-based HRST is the most widely used and validated health risk screening instrument for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. IntellectAbility also provides numerous health-related and person-centered service training for supporters of people with IDD. With an unrelenting focus, IntellectAbility works to fulfill its mission of improving health and quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other at-risk populations. For more information, visit http://www.ReplacingRisk.com.

References:
1. https://www.who.int/activities/global-report-on-health-equity-for-persons-with-disabilities
2. https://ncd.gov/sites/default/files/NCD_Health_Equity_Framework.pdf
3. https://www.jointcommission.org/-/media/tjc/documents/resources/patient-safety-topics/sentinel-event/sea-65-diagnostic-overshadowing-6-16-22-final.pdf

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Karla Jo Helms
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