Health promotion for those with disabilities |

Health promotion for those with disabilities

Nancy Whitelaw

— The health benefits of an active lifestyle that includes moderate amounts of medium to vigorous physical activity on a regular basis have been detailed in the accompanying article. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people with physical and cognitive disabilities are not obtaining the recommended amount of physical activity needed to confer health benefits and prevent secondary conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle (e.g., heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis).

While there is a substantial body of literature on health promotion for the general population and for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma, the vast majority of these programs have not been tailored to meet the specific needs of people with physical and/or cognitive disabilities. Secondary conditions resulting from a physical or cognitive impairment, such as paralysis, weakness, fatigue, spasticity, decreased cognition and maladaptive behavior, often require certain adaptations to various health promotion interventions to assure successful integration and outcomes.

A primary focus of health promotion for people with disabilities is the prevention or reduction of secondary conditions associated with the primary impairment. The impact of secondary conditions on the lives of people with physical disabilities has resulted in an increase in the severity of disability and has eroded participation in community activities. Innovative strategies for improving health, preventing complications associated with the disabling condition and adequately preparing individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities to understand and monitor their own health have emerged as an important public health priority.

Guidelines and strategies for achieving successful outcomes for people with physical and cognitive disabilities must be tailored to the specific secondary conditions that are associated with the person’s primary impairment. With advances in technology, use of the Internet and distance learning education, information about health promotion for people with physical and cognitive disabilities will become increasingly available to health professionals and should result in higher-quality programming for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

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