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Strategic Plan - Disabilities & Disparities

Photo of child with Down Syndrome
Priority: Identifying and reducing disparities in key health indicators, including obesity, among children, youth and adults with disabilities.

What is the Problem?

  • Obesity rates for children and adults with disabilities are 38 percent and 57 percent higher than rates for children and adults without disabilities.

  • Adults with disabilities engage in physical activities on a regular basis approximately half as often as adults without disabilities (12 percent vs. 22 percent).

  • Disparities have been found in access to health care, with 29 percent of people with disabilities showing unmet need compared to 12 percent of people without disabilities.

What Do We Know?

The growing body of research on the link between obesity and disability indicates that, for both children and adults, those at greatest risk for obesity have mobility limitations, intellectual/learning disabilities, or both. Whether obesity is the result of disability or a contributing factor to disability, children, youth and adults with disabilities are an important subgroup to address in reducing obesity in the United States.

Reasons for these disparities include:

  • Lack of healthy food choices for many people with disabilities living in restrictive environments;

  • Difficulty with chewing or swallowing food;

  • Use of medications that can contribute to changes in weight and appetite;

  • Physical limitations that can reduce a person’s ability to exercise;

  • Pain and/or lack of energy;

  • Lack of accessible environments such as sidewalks, parks, and exercise equipment; and

  • Lack of resources such as money, transportation, and social support from family, friends, neighbors, and community members.

What Can We Do?

Now is the time for action. Evidence shows that regular physical activity and good nutrition provide improved cardiovascular and muscle fitness, enhanced mental health, and a better ability to perform tasks of daily life for people with disabilities.

We need: research to build the evidence for interventions; effective communication to inform stakeholders; and implementation of public health programs, policies, and practices to reduce the disparity in obesity and other health indicators such as health care access.

With our partners, we are integrating disability into national efforts that address obesity and other health conditions, and identifying and measuring outcomes for persons with disabilities to evaluate effectiveness and monitor change.

Disabilities Website

Learn more about disabilities

Disability OverviewDivison of Human Development and Disability Overview

Graphic: NCBDDD Strategic Plan 2011-2015NCBDDD Strategic Plan 2011-2015

Learn more about NCBDDD’s strategic plan and priorities.



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Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

    1600 Clifton Road
    MS E-87
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO