Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities

See this video produced by NACDD to learn more about the Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities project

Project Overview

As a public health professional, you play an important role in making sure that people with disabilities have access to inclusive disease prevention and health promotion programs and resources that they need to reach their optimal health.

Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities is a CDC-funded project with the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) that uses an Inclusive Healthy Communities Model to promote disability inclusion strategies and make healthy living easier for all people across community sectors (e.g., school, work site, health care) where they may live, learn, work, play, pray, and receive care.

Inclusive Healthy Communities Model

The Inclusive Healthy Communities Model uses a phased approach to create local-level change by using community coalitions to plan and implement sustainable healthy living improvements. Through policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes, this model focuses on increasing access to healthy living opportunities, such as

  • Healthy eating;
  • Physical activity;
  • General accessibility improvements; and
  • Tobacco use prevention or cessation.
What are policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes?

Policy change is brought about by ordinance, resolution, protocol, procedure, agreement, or law that guides or influences behavior. Policy changes can be legislative or organizational and governmental or non-governmental, and they can mandate environmental changes or other actions to increase the likelihood that changes will be sustainable. Once policies are written, they are signed or adopted through a voting process.

Systems change affects a large amount of people beyond a single organization, such as an entire healthcare system, school system, or multiple sites for large companies. Systems changes often consist of policy changes that occur at a system level.

Environmental change involves physical, social, material, and/or architectural changes to the environment that influence behavior and/or the practices of people within the environment.

Source: NACDD’s Using Policy, System, and Environmental Strategies

The six phases of the Inclusive Healthy Communities Model include:

This phased approach helps community coalitions navigate through different activities to achieve local-level impact over a multi-year project period (typically 3 years).

Public health professionals can use this model to build inclusive communities that help improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities.

Project Approach

The Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities project brought together experts from state and community-based organizations and the disability field to work collaboratively to address poor nutrition, physical inactivity, accessibility issues, and tobacco use and exposure for people with disabilities.

CDC and NACDD collaborated with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) to provide technical assistance and disability inclusive tools that 10 communities in five states used to identify and address health differences and inequities faced by people with disabilities.

A designated program contact within the State Disability and Health Program served as a State Expert Advisor and worked with NACDD to ensure project success and provide technical assistance and support to the two community coordinators, referred to as ‘Community Coaches,’  from their respective state. Together, the collaboration among CDC, NACDD, State Expert Advisors, and Community Coaches assisted the community coalitions with implementing the Inclusive Healthy Communities Model and navigating the project process for achieving new policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) improvements to address poor nutrition, physical inactivity, accessibility issues, and tobacco use and exposure for people with disabilities in various community settings where they live, learn, work, play, pray, or receive care.