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Can J Public Health. 2005 Mar-Apr;96 Suppl 2:S8-22.

Addressing health disparities through promoting equity for individuals with intellectual disability.

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Department of Community Health & Epidemiology, Queen's University & Ongwanada.


Intellectual disabilities (ID) are conditions originating before the age of 18 that result in significant limitations in intellectual functioning and conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills. IDs affect 1 to 3% of the population. Persons with ID are more likely to have physical disabilities, mental health problems, hearing impairments, vision impairments and communication disorders. These co-existing disabilities, combined with the limitations in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviours, make this group of Canadians particularly vulnerable to health disparities. The purpose of this synthesis article is to explore potential contributory factors to health vulnerabilities faced by persons with ID, reveal the extent and nature of health disparities in this population, and examine initiatives to address such differences. The review indicates that persons with ID fare worse than the general population on a number of key health indicators. The factors leading to vulnerability are numerous and complex. They include the way society has viewed ID, the etiology of ID, health damaging behaviours, exposure to unhealthy environments, health-related mobility and inadequate access to essential health and other basic services. For persons with ID there are important disparities in access to care that are difficult to disentangle from discriminatory values and practice. Policy-makers in the United States, England and Scotland have recently begun to address these issues. It is recommended that a clear vision for health policy and strategies be created to address health disparities faced by persons with ID in Canada.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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