Skip to main content

Specific Healthcare Needs of People with Disabilities

The healthcare needs of people with disabilities include many of the same needs as people without disabilities like preventive medicine and screenings. In addition, people with disabilities usually require specialized care for their specific type of disability and they may have additional medical conditions that require attention. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is more common among people with disabilities than among people without disabilities.

Additionally, people with disabilities receive less preventive care and tend to be in worse health than their counterparts without disabilities. To maintain health, people with disabilities also need to be able to engage in physical fitness and other activities. The ability to participate in different activities is important to the social and emotional health of an individual.

According to the 2005 report, The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities, meeting the healthcare needs of people with disabilities includes:

  • Getting to the appointment
  • Getting into the clinic building
  • Checking-in for their appointment
  • Maneuvering through the clinic to their exam room

Factors that become important once the patient is in the exam room, according to the Surgeon General's report and a 2007 JAMA Commentary include being able to:

  • Communicate their health needs effectively with their care provider
  • Receive an appropriate and thorough examination with appropriate equipment for screening, preventive, and diagnostic appointments
  • Spend sufficient time with their care provider to understand the steps they will take to maintain health

After the patient leaves their healthcare appointment, there are still needs that should be met to maintain health:

  • Obtaining prescriptions
  • Getting to therapy or specialty care appointments
  • Making and keeping follow-up appointments with the same care provider, which is important to continuity of care
  • Accessing groceries and maintaining proper nutrition
  • Participating in physical, social, or other community activities

Resources to Learn More

Healthy People 2020 Disability and Health
The goals for improving the health of people with disabilities to be met in 2020.
Organization(s): Healthy People 2020

Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities
This is a comprehensive document that explains challenges to health and well-being of people with disabilities as well as goals that can be used as recommendations to improve the health of people with disabilities.
Organization(s): U.S. Office of the Surgeon General; U.S. Office of Disability
Date: 2005