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Public Health Rep. 2004 Jul-Aug; 119(4): 418–426.
PMCID: PMC1497651

Health disparities among adults with developmental disabilities, adults with other disabilities, and adults not reporting disability in North Carolina.


OBJECTIVES: The purposes of this study were (1) to identify disparities between adults with developmental disabilities and non-disabled adults in health and medical care, and (2) to compare this pattern of disparities to the pattern of disparities between adults with other disabilities and adults without disabilities. METHODS: The authors compared data on health status, health risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and utilization of medical care across three groups of adults: No Disability, Disability, and Developmental Disability. Data sources were the 2001 North Carolina Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the North Carolina National Core Indicators survey. RESULTS: Adults with developmental disabilities were more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles and seven times as likely to report inadequate emotional support, compared with adults without disabilities. Adults with disabilities and developmental disabilities were significantly more likely to report being in fair or poor health than adults without disabilities. Similar rates of tobacco use and overweight/obesity were reported. Adults with developmental disabilities had a similar or greater risk of having four of five chronic health conditions compared with non-disabled adults. Significant medical care utilization disparities were found for breast and cervical cancer screening as well as for oral health care. Adults with developmental disabilities presented a unique risk for inadequate emotional support and low utilization of breast and cervical cancer screenings. CONCLUSIONS: Significant disparities in health and medical care utilization were found for adults with developmental disabilities relative to non-disabled adults. The National Core Indicators protocol offers a sound methodology to gather much-needed surveillance information on the health status, health risk behaviors, and medical care utilization of adults with developmental disabilities. Health promotion efforts must be specifically designed for this population.

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