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Health and Disability: Reports, News and Medical Condition Overviews

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/06/06

Synopsis: Information on disability and health related topics including physical, mental, and medical conditions that can result in, or cause disability. There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people in the world. Today, about 1 in 5 people worldwide, are living with at least one disability.


Main Document

What Defines Health?

In humans health is the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage when facing physical, mental or social challenges. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in its 1948 constitution as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This definition has been subject to controversy, in particular as lacking operational value and because of the problem created by use of the word "complete" Other definitions have been proposed, among which a recent definition that correlates health and personal satisfaction. Classification systems such as the WHO Family of International Classifications, including the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), are commonly used to define and measure the components of health.

Today, about 1 in 5 people worldwide, are living with at least one disability, and most people will experience a disability of some form during the course of their lives. It is important to remember disability does not necessarily equate to poor health! For example, in the early stages of disability associated with paraplegia, the affected person may be considered in poor health and may have a greater need for medical and health care, but once their condition is stable they may enjoy good health.

Disability does not include situations that are not health-related, such as participation restriction solely due to socioeconomic factors. This distinguishes disability from disadvantage or exclusion unrelated to health. However, presence of disability and severity of disability are often associated with individuals' socioeconomic environments. People's health is increasingly conceptualized in terms of their quality of life, what activities they can do, in what areas of life they are able to participate as they wish, and what long-term supports they need for living in the community.

Disability and Health

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.

Disability is the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports).

The Diversity of Disability

While some health conditions associated with disability result in poor health and extensive health care needs, others do not. However all people with disabilities have the same general health care needs as everyone else, and therefore need access to mainstream health care services.

Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reinforces the right of persons with disabilities to attain the highest standard of health care, without discrimination. Health conditions are a prerequisite (but not a determinant), and personal factors may also influence outcomes.

  • Impairments are problems in body function or structure such as significant deviation or loss.
  • Activity limitations are difficulties an individual may have in executing activities.
  • Participation restrictions are problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations.

Environmental factors include all the physical and social aspects of the environment that may affect a person's experience of disability, including equipment used or personal assistance provided. Environmental factors may act as facilitators that diminish disability, or barriers that create it.

People with Disability Often Face Barriers to Good Health

Studies show that individuals with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to report:

  • Having poorer overall health.
  • Skipping medical care because cost.
  • Having no access to health insurance.
  • Having less access to adequate health care.
  • Engaging in risky health behaviors, including smoking and physical inactivity.

There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person's:

A nurse takes a patients blood pressure reading. Regular health checkups can often find medical problems before they become more serious - Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.
A nurse takes a patients blood pressure reading. Regular health checkups can often find medical problems before they become more serious - Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

  • Vision
  • Thinking
  • Hearing
  • Learning
  • Movement
  • Mental health
  • Remembering
  • Communicating
  • Social relationships

Disabilities can affect people in different ways, even when one person has the same type of disability as another person. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see.

Quick and Interesting Heath Facts

  • 1/3 of all cancers are preventable.
  • There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people in the world.
  • On average, right-handed people live 9 years longer than left-handed people.
  • There are 2.5 trillion (give or take) of red blood cells in your body at any moment.
  • Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil.
  • Over 40 million Americans have "chronic halitosis," which is a condition causing bad breath that never goes away.
  • In 1815 French chemist Michael Eugene Chevreul realized the first link between diabetes and sugar metabolism when he discovered that the urine of a diabetic was identical to grape sugar.
  • An adult has fewer bones than a baby. We start off life with 350 bones, but because bones fuse together during growth, we end up with only 206 as adults.
  • Motorists who talk on cell phones are more impaired than drunk drivers with blood-alcohol levels exceeding .08.
  • Men have more blood than women. 1.5 gallons for men versus 0.875 gallons for women.
  • 33% of those who drink four or more caffeinated beverages, such as soda or coffee, daily are put at a higher risk for sleep apnea.
  • No one seems to know why people blush.
  • Because of today's alarming obesity rates, this generation of children will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.
  • There are about 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, and your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through those vessels every day.
  • Out of the 206 bones in the human adult's body, 106 are in the hands and feet.

View our full list of over 600 Human Body Facts

Staying Healthy with Physical Activity

Adults with disabilities should try to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (i.e., brisk walking; wheeling oneself in a wheelchair) or at least 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (i.e., jogging, wheelchair basketball) or a mix of both moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities each week.

A rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. They should avoid inactivity as some physical activity is better than none.

Muscle-strengthening activities should include moderate and high intensity, and involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week (i.e., working with resistance-band, adapted yoga) as these activities provide additional health benefits. All children and adolescents should do 1 hour (60 minutes) or more of physical activity each day.

If a person with a disability is not able to meet the physical activity guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity based on their abilities and should avoid inactivity. Adults with disabilities should talk to their healthcare provider about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for their abilities.

People with Disabilities Can - and Do - Lead Long Healthy Lives:

  • Many can and do go to school and attend places of worship.
  • They vote, marry, have children, work, and play.
  • Having a disability does not mean a person can not be healthy.

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