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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Key Components of a Successful Health Promotion Program for All Individuals, Including People with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities


Associate Director, Amy Rauworth
Associate Director, Amy Rauworth
As the New Year approaches, it is the perfect time to evaluate your current fitness goals and objectives. Is it time to change an activity or goal? Have there been any changes to your health status that should now be considered? Take some time out today to write down your health promotion plans for 2006. Include clear and measurable goals and objectives such as, "My goal is to increase the amount of vegetables that I eat. I will prepare one new vegetarian dish each month," or "My goal is to decrease the amount of time I spend watching TV. Each time that my favorite show is a rerun, I will put on an exercise video and work out instead."

To be successful in making a lifestyle change, you should set realistic goals and address the barriers that may interfere with adopting the new goal or activity. For example, if trying a new vegetarian recipe during the week is difficult, try it on the weekend when you have more time or prepare it and freeze it for later. Take a few minutes to write down the barriers to each new goal or activity that you have listed and determine how you will address each barrier before it becomes a problem.

Identifying and creating measurable goals and objectives are important components of physical activity and public health interventions for people with intellectual disabilities. Research suggests that individuals with intellectual disabilities engage in very little physical activity, have higher amounts of body fat (especially women and persons with Down syndrome), and have significantly more cardiovascular disorders than the general population. Lifestyle has been correlated with many of the additional health risks experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. Adults with intellectual disabilities are more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles and seven times more likely to report inadequate emotional support than adults without disabilities.

Several great health promotion curriculums are available. Here are six programs covering various components of health promotion for individuals with intellectual disabilities:

  • Healthy Athletes: Developed by Special Olympics in 1996, this program is targeted to the Special Olympic athlete. Components include:
    1. Healthy Hearing
    2. FUNfitness
    3. Special Smiles
    4. Health Promotion
    5. Opening Eyes
    6. Fit Feet

    To learn how to start a Healthy Athletes program in your area, go to: http://www.specialolympics.org.
  • Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for Adults with Developmental Disabilities: This program was developed by the Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities located in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The target population for this program is individuals with developmental disabilities. Topics include physical activity, nutrition classes, and peer support/health behavior.
  • Women Be Healthy: The North Carolina Office on Disability and Health created this curriculum, which targets adult women with mild to moderate intellectual disabillity. Topics include: health education, anxiety reduction, and assertiveness/empowerment training. For more information, go to: http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~ncodh/.
  • Living Well with a Disability: This curriculum was developed by the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities located at the University of Montana and is targeted to all people with disabilities. Components include:
    1. goal-setting
    2. problem-solving
    3. attribution training
    4. depression and healthy communication
    5. information-seeking
    6. physical activity
    7. nutrition and advocacy
    8. health maintenance
    To learn more about this curriculum, go to: http://www.livingwellweb.com/lwpage1.htm.
  • Steps to Your Health: The University of South Carolina School of Medicine developed this curriculum aimed at adults with disabilities. Topics include: healthy eating, exercise, stress management, changing ways of thinking, communication, obesity, and relapse prevention. To learn more, go to: http://help.med.sc.edu/marylou.htm.
  • Healthy Lifestyles Workshop for People with Disabilities: This free workshop was created by Oregon Health and Sciences University. Components include social health, emotional health, physical activity, illness prevention, goal-setting, and personal values.

For information on developing a fitness program for individuals with intellectual disabilities, see our factsheet, Introduction to Achieving a Beneficial Fitness for Persons with Developmental Disabilities or direct specific questions to amyr@lakeshore.org.


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