Improving Health of People with Disabilities

Man in a wheelchair in the park
Improving Health of People with Disabilities

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) works to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities for good health as people without disabilities.

Disabilities may include difficulty with movement, attention, social interaction, hearing, seeing, concentrating, remembering, emotions, or making decisions. Many people will experience a disability during their lifetimes, but having a disability does not mean that a person is unhealthy or cannot be healthy. People with disabilities need healthcare services and programs that provide information for optimal health for the same reasons everyone else does—to stay well, active, and participate fully in their communities. CDC works to ensure that people of all abilities can live their lives to the fullest.

woman with down syndrome wearing a protective mask


  • Launched three new 5-year funding cycles to support national and state programs to reduce health inequities and improve health outcomes for people with disabilities throughout their lives.
  • Supported projects to address the greater impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities:
    • Included disability champions within 14 state, 1 territorial, and 10 city and county health departments within public health emergency preparedness and response programs. These programs helped to ensure that (1) issues impacting people with disabilities are considered in planning and emergency response efforts and (2) local emergency response plans are updated to better serve the needs of people with disabilities during outbreaks, pandemics, and other national emergencies.
    • Developed and launched an online central repositoryexternal icon of COVID-19 resources. This repository provides technical assistance and training for health departments and organizations that serve people with disabilities. The online repository also offers informational resources for audiences who may need connections and referrals to local emergency services and support.
    • Developed a suite of COVID-19 resources, in both English and Spanish, for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who also have literacy challenges, their direct care service providers, and healthcare professionals. These resources included posters, interactive activities, stories, videos, and tip sheets. They are housed on a dedicated web platform for easy access.
  • Expanded surveillance and research to improve the lives of people living with congenital heart defects (CHDs), spina bifida, and muscular dystrophies. Examining health issues and needs across each phase of life can provide data to plan for services and ensure that people with these conditions receive the care they need. In 2021, NCBDDD

Looking to the Future

NCBDDD is dedicated to promoting inclusive communities, programs, and policies that provide opportunities for people with disabilities and their families to live full, healthy lives. NCBDDD will continue to provide guidance to stakeholders to help public health programs become fully accessible and inclusive by offering effective tools and resources to improve the accessibility of program materials focused on healthy living (such as physical activity and nutrition) and COVID-19 guidance.

By turning existing disability data and information into action, NCBDDD can help ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities. Additionally, CDC is committed to the ongoing efforts to expand surveillance systems by including disability status measurements in national surveys. Continuing to strengthen NCBDDD’s surveillance systems will help address gaps in knowledge through each stage of life, such as the often-difficult transition of health care for adolescents with disabilities into adulthood. NCBDDD will continue to promote the healthy development and inclusion of people with disabilities across their lifespans.

Notable Scientific Publications