Disability Inclusive Health

Group of young people with intellectual disability

Together, we can improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities by increasing access to quality health care and health promotion programs.

December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilitiesexternal icon. As CDC honors International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we ask you to join us in being a part of the global movement to change attitudes toward, and promote the inclusion of, people with disabilities in society and in programs that support health and prevent disease.

Intellectual disability (ID) is a term used when there are significant limitations to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life. Although the life expectancy of individuals with ID is now longer than it was a generation ago, it is still an average of 10 to 20 years shorter than that of the general population.1 In the United States and around the world, people with IDs face significant health inequalities compared to people without IDs. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that—when compared to people without IDs — people with IDs in the United States are more likely to have obesity, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and asthma.2,3 They are also more likely to be admitted to the hospital by emergency room doctors for conditions that could have been treated in outpatient settings.4

People with IDs are less likely to receive good health care and more likely to have poor health than people without IDs. Healthcare professionals can work with their patients with an ID, and their caregivers, to find out which care is best. Training for healthcare professionals is important to help them better care for their patients with IDs. Creating accessible healthcare systems that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of people with IDs may help improve their health and wellbeing and ensure they are active participants in their own health care.

Addressing Gaps in Health Care for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

On October 15th, CDC was honored to welcome a panel of experts to present Addressing Disparities in Health Care for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities at CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds (PHGR).  During this session of PHGR, presenters discussed ways to improve health for people with IDs. Dr. Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, FAAP (CDC) shared how CDC works to understand the health needs of people with IDs and develop programs to improve their health. Dr. Susan Havercamp, PhD, FAAID (Ohio State University) talked about education and training for healthcare professionals who see patients with IDs. Liz Weintraub (Association of University Centers on Disabilities) talked about herself as a person with an ID trying to make her way through the healthcare system. Finally, Dr. Tim Shriver, PhD (Special Olympics) focused on how we can work together to improve the health of people with IDs and to advance inclusive health together.

Listen to a recording of this session and learn what healthcare providers, public health professionals, and caregivers can do to support people with IDs in achieving optimal health and wellbeing.

Also, check out a special Beyond the Data conversation with Liz Weintraub and Dr. Shriver, in which they discuss disability inclusion and how to better understand the needs of people with IDs.

Data on the Health of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs)

Valid and reliable national-level data on the health of people with IDs and developmental disabilities across the lifespan can help us understand their health differences, address the health barriers and inequalities faced by this population and consistently monitor progress toward improving the lives of people with IDDs.  A workgroup comprised of key agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including CDC and other experts in the field of IDDs, was recently convened to review the current information and discuss future directions to better understand the numbers and health status of people with IDDs in the United States. The group has published two reports and a companion summary discussing national and state disability data sources and existing gaps:

Future Opportunities

Join CDC and its partners as we work together to improve the health of people with IDs by

  • Exploring new ways of collecting relevant data to help us understand the health needs of people with IDs.
  • Supporting programs that address the specific health needs of people with IDs and promote the inclusion of people with IDs in communities.
  • Developing educational products and campaigns to promote increased understanding of the health needs and programs available for people with IDs.


  1. Lauer E, McCallion P. Mortality of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from select US state disability service systems and medical claims data. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. 2015;28(5):394-405.
  2. Hsieh K, Rimmer JH, Heller T. Obesity and associated factors in adults with intellectual disability. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2014; 58(9): 851-863.
  3. Krahn GL, Fox MH. Health disparities of adults with intellectual disabilities: What do we know? What do we do? J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. 2014;27(5):431–446.
  4. McDermott S, Royer J, Mann JR, Armour BS. Factors associated with ambulatory care sensitive emergency department visits for South Carolina Medicaid members with intellectual disability. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2018;62(3):165-178.