Promoting health, quality of life, and participation of persons with disabilities is a relatively recent development in public health. Its brief history reflects three distinct public health perspectives toward disability-a traditional approach that focuses on preventing disability, a contemporary approach that regards disability as a minority group experiencing disparities relative to people without disabilities, and an emerging perspective where disability status is considered one of multiple determinants of health. The field of disability and health has been influenced by the interaction of disability advocacy with the public health process of surveillance, epidemiology research, and intervention. Advocacy draws on political and legal arguments to press for action on issues such as health care access, control of services, and choice of residence. Public health uses surveillance to document magnitude of problems; epidemiology to identify specific groups, develop measures, and apply rigorous research methods; and intervention to improve health behaviors and health outcomes. The field of disability and public health, however, has lagged in addressing the role of environmental factors in the disabling process, in moving to societal participation as an outcome, and in implementing population scale interventions.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Inc.