Health disparities of adults with intellectual disabilities: what do we know? What do we do?

J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. 2014 Sep;27(5):431-46. doi: 10.1111/jar.12067. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Background: Recent attention to health of people with intellectual disabilities has used a health disparities framework. Building on historical context, the paper summarizes what is known about health disparities from reports and research and provide direction on what to do to reduce these disparities among adults with intellectual disabilities.

Methods: The present authors examined literature from 2002 to 2011 on health disparities and people with disabilities looking for broad themes on documenting disparities and on research approaches and methods.

Results: Multiple countries published reports on health of people with intellectual disabilities. Researchers summarized existing research within a health disparities framework. A number of promising methodologies are identified such as health services research, health indicators, enhanced surveillance and mixed-methods.

Conclusions: Strategies to reduce health disparities include use of data to educate decision makers, attention to social determinants and a life-course model and emphasis on leveraging inclusion in mainstream services where possible.

Keywords: disparities; life-course model; social determinants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Knowledge