Health needs assessment reveals disparities for individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts

April 17, 2014

Individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts are more likely to experience poor physical and mental health, nicotine addiction and sexual violence, according to a report released this week co-authored by UMass Medical School and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The report, Health Needs Assessment of People with Disabilities in Massachusetts, 2013, reveals findings from an in-depth assessment of individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts conducted by the medical school’s Disability, Health and Employment Policy Unit within the Center for Health Policy and Research.

The assessment highlighted ten problem areas for individuals with disabilities. They were: affordable housing, adequate dental care and mental health services , finding a doctor sensitive to disability issues, transportation to doctor’s appointments, communication supports, managing chronic conditions, paying for prescription medications, finding a doctor who accepts public health insurance, and locating accessible gyms.

Data for the assessment was collected from existing health surveys, an online survey an interviews with members from the disability community. The assessment was completed for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Health and Disability Program and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The UMass Medical School team was led by Monika Mitra, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and a research scientist in the Center for Health Policy and Research, which sits within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division. Christine J. Clifford, MPH, and Lauren D. Smith, MPH, also contributed to the report.  

Improving the health and life of people with disabilities is the focus of several areas of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine, including, the Center for Health Policy and Research’s Work Without Limits Program, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center and the Disability and Community Services program.