Improving Health of People with Disabilities

Man with a disability working at a bakery
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.


Happy friends hanging out in the park, a young woman and a man in a wheel chair
  • Supported the inclusion of people with disabilities in state, territorial, and local health department preparedness and response efforts. Disability specialists served as subject matter experts embedded in public health emergency preparedness planning and response programs. This was accomplished in partnership with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO). Also, in collaboration with NACCHO, supported 2 additional graduate students, 19 total since the program began, to be a voice for people with disabilities in local health departments through a Health and Disability Fellowship program.
  • Led efforts to increase inclusion of people with disabilities in public health data to learn more about health disparities, focus disease prevention and health promotion activities, and evaluate outcomes. Efforts focus on increasing the use of standard disability questions in data collection systems. Collaborations also help enhance the use of administrative and survey data in identifying people with disabilities.
  • Developed new Easy to Read information on COVID-19 booster shots and COVID-19 Community Levels. These materials provide critical information in an accessible format for all people, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Accelerated surveillance and research to improve the lives of people living with congenital heart defects, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida. Studying health issues and needs throughout life can provide data to plan for services and ensure that people with these conditions receive the care they need. In 2022, 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 plans to continue to provide guidance to partners to help public health programs become fully accessible and inclusive by offering effective tools and resources to improve the accessibility of program materials focused in particular on healthy living (such as physical activity and nutrition) and COVID-19 guidance. NCBDDD is also committed to ensuring people with heart defects, spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy are aware of the specialized care they need to live healthy lives. 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