UQ study gives young Australians with disabilities a healthy start

The more than 500,000 Australians with intellectual disabilities can feel invisible to the health care system, according to the Director of UQ's Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability (QCIDD).

But this is about to change thanks to a University of Queensland project that is removing the barriers to health care for people with intellectual disabilities (ID).

QCIDD Director Associate Professor Nick Lennox is leading the Health Intervention Package. He said a pilot study of the project in Brisbane had reported noticeable improvements in health care for those Australians with ID.

"It showed significant improvements in health screening and health promotion, improved health advocacy and was acceptable to those with ID, their families and general practitioners (GPs)," Dr Lennox said.

Initially supported by the State Government, the UQ project was awarded $779,500 by the National Health and Medical Research Council this month. The project is divided into two parts: a Comprehensive Health Assessment Program (CHAP); and the introduction of a health advocacy tool called the Ask Diary in which adolescents with ID and their parents record the interactions with their GPs.

The CHAP program, a GP-based health review process, resulted in significant increases in immunisations, a six-fold increase in the detection of vision impairment and a massive 30-fold increase in hearing testing.

The Ask Diary also resulted in improved health outcomes in areas including relationships with GPs and increased health screening. Dr Lennox found that 61percent of people with ID, parents and paid carers who used the diary reported being better advocates.

The diary is also used in the classroom with picture pages for communicating symptoms and others for recording health problems.

Studies show there are many unrecognised health problems in adolescents with ID. Vision and hearing defects are the most prevalent

Contact: Nick Lennox
Research Australia

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