An Emerging Role for ILCs
Glen White, Ph.D, University of Kansas, has stated that Independent Living Centers "can play an important role in supporting their consumers to decrease the risk of secondary conditions while simultaneously promoting better overall health levels". There are several ways this could be accomplished.
Worksite Wellness Programs for ILC Staff
Comprehensive worksite wellness programs could be established for staff members with and without a disability at ILCs. This would provide a convenient, firsthand educational experience in the area of health promotion for these individuals who would ultimately model and promote the tenets of wellness to their customers. Guest speakers at staff meetings could present information on wellness and health promotion benefits. Perhaps twice a week lunch time programs offering healthy dietary options could be offered, complete with a guest nutritionist and healthful catered or potluck cuisine. Another option would be to have stress reduction/exercise breaks scheduled three times a week for all staff. Ten minutes sometime mid-afternoon could be planned for breathing exercises, stretch breaks or low intensity exercise followed by free liquid refreshments.
Regional Conferences on Wellness for Consumers with Disabilities
ILCs in regional areas across the country could host conferences for IL staff on health promotion for consumers who have a disability and are at risk for developing secondary conditions. Medical, wellness and IL specialists could address pertinent topic areas. State and federal public health agencies could serve as sources of information, planning assistance and funding.
Integration of Health Promotion Material into Existing Programs/Services
Health promotion information and tactics could also be integrated into existing programs/services provided to IL consumers. For example, an educational session on the prevention of pressure sores could be incorporated into an existing attendant training class. Or ILC- sponsored "support groups could arrange for presentations on health promotion and prevention of secondary conditions...Other Independent Living Centers have assisted rehabilitation centers in transitioning rehab patients into the community (20) through the use of peer support. Part of this peer support would include reinforcement and feedback regarding 'at risk' health behaviors that might lead to secondary conditions" (21).
Comprehensive and Integrated (Holistic) Health Promotion Workshops
Based on a few existing models such as Universities of Montana and Kansas' "Living Well With A Disability," Roller and Maynard's "Stay Well!," or University of Michigan's "Wellness for Women with Polio," comprehensive and integrated wellness programs could be offered as a direct service through ILCs. These are well-rounded programs that would include modules on physical activity, nutrition and psychosocial or lifestyle enhancement subjects such as stress management. Each topic would be addressed and connected to the other subject matter in the program, demonstrating how all aspects of heath promotion are inter-related and contribute to one another. "As research results and training materials are more readily disseminated to IL programs...the use of such tested training materials will ensure the quality and continuity of information provided to consumers regarding secondary condition prevention and management" (22). Daytime or evening classes covering a variety of health promotion topics (ex: physical activity, nutrition, stress reduction, complementary medicine, spirituality etc.) could be held at ILCs and taught by a combination of ILC staff members and professionals who have relevant areas of expertise. Many ILCs currently offer presentations on a variety of health promotion topics such as nutrition and self-empowerment. So developing one comprehensive workshop may simply involve building upon and adding to existing wellness-related service offerings. To offer these new programs to a wide range of consumers who are at risk, outreach efforts would need to be intensified. Marketing efforts might require special organizational training sessions by out-sourced consultants who are recognized for their competence in this area.
ILCs could also continue to play an active advocacy role, empowering consumers to join forces in encouraging community wellness centers and programs to include appropriate services and adaptive equipment for citizens with disabling conditions. For example, if the new community swimming pool at the county recreation center does not work for people with disabilities, act jointly with county administrators to resolve the problem. Additionally, consumers and ILC staff could encourage local fitness center trainers to learn about physical activity guidelines for various disability groups and the resources that are available on these topics. In the spirit of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the way has been laid for many future health promotion opportunities. Already many national, state, and local outdoor recreational centers are being made wheelchair accessible to one extent or another. Access to restorative and health-promoting indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities is certainly within the framework of a wellness paradigm for people with disabilities.