National Assessment of the Knowledge, Awareness, and Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Local Health Departments’ Public Health Practices

Approximately 56 million people in the United States live with a disability, which is equivalent to approximately 20% of Americans living with a congenital or acquired disability. The number of people living with a disability is likely to increase as the population ages. Research suggests that people with disabilities have complex healthcare needs and are disproportionally affected by health disparities; consequently, people with disabilities experience poorer health status and a poorer quality of life when compared to people without disabilities.

One way to address and mitigate these health disparities is through including people with disabilities in public health programs offered by local health departments (LHDs). To explore and better understand how LHDs are including people with disabilities in their programs, products, and services, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) conducted a quantitative assessment of randomly selected LHDs from across the United States. A total of 159 LHDs completed a brief nine-item questionnaire. The key findings from this assessment suggest the following:

  • LHDs do not intentionally exclude people with disabilities from their activities;
  • LHDs tend to be unaware of the prevalence rates of people with disabilities in their LHDs’ jurisdictions;
  • LHDs report a general lack of knowledge about the health disparities experienced by the population of people with disabilities; and
  • LHDs are more likely to include people with disabilities in emergency preparedness/planning activities than in any other type of public health program or activity.

NACCHO will use the quantitative data obtained from this assessment to develop a general framework for creating comprehensive education, training, and outreach materials/activities to raise awareness among LHDs of the health inequities and poor health outcomes experienced by people with disabilities. LHDs can use the information presented in this report to become familiar with the inequities in health experienced by the population of people with disabilities and to better understand the ways LHDs are including people with disabilities in public health programs and services. Click here to download the research brief developed by NACCHO’s Health and Disability team.