People With Disabilities Experience Health Disparities; Funding Awarded to Help Students With Disabilities Find Jobs

Doctor talks to woman with disability in wheelchair. People with disabilities experience health disparities, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

People with disabilities are one of many U.S. populations that experience health disparities, according to a recent finding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

This finding will encourage more federal research to address the problem, the NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) says in a statement.

NIMHD says that people with disabilities experience much higher rates of illness and mortality than the general U.S. population. These disparities are largely driven by social disadvantages.

For example, NIH notes that people with disabilities often experience various forms of discrimination, such as exclusionary practices, programs, and policies that reduce access to timely and comprehensive health care. 

People with disabilities who also belong to one or more other populations with health disparities fare even worse. These include racial and ethnic minority groups, people with lower socioeconomic status, underserved rural communities, and sexual and gender minority groups.

“Access to quality health care is a basic human right. It is unacceptable that in 2023, every person in the United States of America does not have that access,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra says in the statement. “Research to understand the barriers and unmet needs faced by people with disabilities, and to develop effective interventions to address them, is needed. This designation will help to improve access to health care and health outcomes for all people.” 

Acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak agrees. “To the disability community, we hear you and thank you for sharing your lived experiences with NIH,” he says. “This designation marks an important step in an agency-wide effort to advance health equity for people with disabilities.”

NIH’s decision was made after considering a report delivered by an NIMHD advisory council, receiving input from the disability community, and reviewing the science and evidence. 

Separately, the agency issued a notice of funding opportunity calling for research on ways to address the impacts of disability, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status on healthcare access and health outcomes.

DEA Awards $199 Million to Improve Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

In other U.S. federal government news, the Department of Education (DEA) announced that it will fund 20 model demonstration projects focused on improving career opportunities for children and youth with disabilities.

About $199 million in funding for the DEA’s Pathways to Partnerships program supports collaborative partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation agencies, state and local educational agencies, and federally funded centers for independent living. The goal of these partnerships is to help people with disabilities transition to life after high school, preparing them for independent living, employment, and integration into local communities. 

“The DEA is committed to providing children and youth with disabilities the supports they need to access self-advocacy training, career pathways, and independent living,” the agency says in a statement. 

Pathways to Partnerships is part of the Disability Innovation Fund program. The program aims to help improve economic self-sufficiency and decrease the continuing employment disparities between youth without disabilities and youth with disabilities.This announcement builds on a key component of the DEA’s “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” initiative to support individuals from underserved communities, ensure every student has a pathway to college or a career, and improve transition services for people with disabilities.

Sources: NIH designates people with disabilities as a population with health disparities; U.S. Department of Education Awards Nearly $199 Million to Improve Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Through Partnerships

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