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Health Education for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Author: Indiana University

Published: 2009-11-08

Synopsis and Key Points:

Adults with intellectual disabilities have slightly higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity and preventable chronic diseases.

Main Digest

Health Education Designed For Adults With Intellectual Disabilities: An Opportunity For Healthier Lives.

An Indiana University study involving adults with intellectual disabilities found that the adults increased their personal health knowledge after taking a semi-weekly class for four weeks.

Adults with ID, an internationally accepted term for mental retardation, have slightly higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity and preventable chronic diseases compared to the general population. Lead researcher Amy Bodde, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Applied Health Science in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said the findings further verify that adults with ID are capable of increasing their knowledge of health education, if given the opportunity, and are able to make informed decisions about health.

"Many people with intellectual disabilities haven't had general health education," she said. "They are living more and more independent lives but they are not being educated to make good decisions about their health."

Study background:

The study involved 42 men and women ages 19 to 62. They took a 30-minute class twice a week at an agency that provides residential, occupational and leisure services to people with ID. The curriculum employs written, pictorial, role play and interactive video teaching strategies, which have been useful in vocational and life skills education for adults with ID.

On average, the study participants' general knowledge of health topics increased by 5 percent. Their knowledge of physical activity guidelines increased by 31 percent.

Bodde said people with ID are not expected to be as healthy and active as others. Until about 30 years ago, ID was thought of as a disease, she said, so people with ID were considered inherently unhealthy. Slowly a new conceptualization of disability has arisen, one where people with intellectual and physical disabilities can live healthy lives.

"Disability no longer precludes good health," Bodde said. "People with disabilities can have full and healthy lives and this should be an expectation."

Co-authors include Dong-Chul Seo, Department of Applied Health Science; Georgia Frey, Department of Kinesiology; Marieke Van Puymbroeck, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies; and David Lohrmann, Department of Applied Health Science.

Bodde will present her study on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Hall A-B. She can be reached at weavera@indiana.edu.

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