After a finding that nearly half of disabled people are physically inactive, the issue of health and wellness for disabled people has come to the forefront of many public health organizations. This week, the White House is holding a summit to bring together advocates, experts and people with feedback from a variety of perspectives to discuss ways to get disabled people more active, and to work on getting these methods out into the U.S. public. The event markedthe first time that the White House had held a disability-focused health and fitness summit specifically looking at ways to improve health outcomes for disabled people.
Disability is often associated in the popular mind with ill health, but that doesn’t actually need to be the case. A wheelchair user, for example, can be very healthy although she may lack mobility in her legs. However, she can also experience health problems like poor core and upper body strength, pressure sores, asthma, and other issues that might be alleviated by helping her get active and connecting her with a nutritionist who can meet her specific needs. This summit focused on building a commitment to inclusion among people and organizations who work in the health care, physical fitness and nutrition fields.
It started on Monday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with an event that included administrative officials, parents and members of community groups. They discussed successful community initiatives that have reached disabled people and their families. On Tuesday, the event transitioned to the Department of Health and Human Services, where members of the summit discussed ways to improve and implement fitness initiatives for the nation with a specific focus on disability inclusion; one important aspect to this is educating community groups about the 9 Guidelines for Disability Inclusion developed as part of the Commitment to Inclusion initiative.
These address issues like accessibility, making disabled people stakeholders in program development, affordability and clear metrics for evaluating outcomes. While the guidelines are aimed at fitness programs, they’re more widely applicable to any setting where people want assistance with disability inclusion, whether it’s a conference, fundraising event, or community project. The guidelines reinforce the need to keep the needs of disabled people in mind at all times when developing programs, and to accommodate those with needs that are different from those of the general population.
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, the American Association on Health and Disability, the Center on Disability at the Public Health Institute, and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) were among the participants at the event, which examined why disabled people have trouble accessing fitness programs, and how barriers can be overcome. Barriers to inclusion can include physical inaccessibility, instructors who aren’t trained in working with disabled people, affordability, difficulty in getting to facilities, isolation and housing difficulties.
This is a multidisciplinary issue with serious policy implications for the United States, both in terms of improving health outcomes for disabled people and including disabled people more broadly in society. Whenever the White House holds a summit on disability policy, it sends a signal to the nation that the federal government is committed to addressing disability issues, and wants to work with disability advocacy groups to achieve positive outcomes for the disability community. Groups like the National Council on Disability play a key role in making sure the U.S. policy landscape includes disabled people every step of the way.
By s.e.smith, from care2.com, October 7, 2014
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