Dr holding stetoscope

HealthMeet promotes healthy lives

by Jennifer Sladen

HealthMeet. Being healthy is a challenge for everyone. We all may need help learning how to maintain a healthy weight, getting glasses or contact lenses to see clearly, recovering from surgery, seeing a dentist to get a cavity filled or using a walker or cane to help us keep our balance as we get older.

People with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities often face additional barriers when attempting to access appropriate health services in their communities. These barriers include:

  • Access to coordinated care;
  • Discrimination from health care professionals who sometimes provide inadequate or inappropriate interventions and treatments or deny appropriate care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
  • Affordability due to a lack of public or private insurance;
  • Communication with healthcare professionals and personal decision making.

In 2012, The Arc launched the HealthMeet® project because we believe people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should have access to high quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care.

HealthMeet® is a multi year program funded with a $3 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control (Grant #U59DD000993) that offers free community-based health assessments to people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Mobility issues

These assessments evaluate body mass, blood pressure, lung capacity, dental concerns, vision and hearing, and foot and mobility issues for each program participant.

The HealthMeet® assessments are helping people with I/DD in these states learn more about their health and take charge of their follow-up care.

The Arc has also been able to more effectively document health disparities affecting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The following are some of the disparities identified through the first year of preliminary HealthMeet® data and resources on how you can take care of your own health needs:

  • People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to have a body mass index (BMI) score in a healthy range of 18.5 – 24.9. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely to be obese or underweight compared to people without intellectual and developmental disabilities. This means that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely to have a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer or weaker immune systems.

Calculating BMI

  • Only 23 percent of all adults in the United States eat the recommended daily portion of fruits and vegetables. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to eat the recommended daily portion of fruits and vegetables.
  • Men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities of all ages are more likely to have fallen at home in the past year compared to people without disabilities in the general population including older adults. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities who fall are likely to suffer moderate or severe injuries, making recovery and the ability to live independently more difficult and could increase the risk of early death.

Even if an injury does not occur, the fear of falling may cause some people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to limit their activities and leads to further reduced mobility and lack of physical fitness (CDC, 2014).

HealthMeet® provides resources and health promotion trainings to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and health care providers. A full report on HealthMeet® will be available in the near future. Visit The Arc’s website for more information about HealthMeet® and to start learning more about what it means to take care of yourself today!

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