Disability Studies Health and Wellness Course
Principal Investigators: Carla Culley, MPH, Charles Drum, JD, Ph.D.
While disability has been included in public health, the focus has traditionally been on the primary prevention of disabilities rather than understanding the disability condition or its secondary conditions. In order to address this gap in training for public health professionals, the RRTC has partnered with the Oregon Office of Disability and Health (OODH) in developing a curriculum on contemporary perspectives and issues of disability for students in Masters of Public Health programs. The content will draw heavily on the RRTC research findings and is anticipated to include epidemiology of disabilities, secondary conditions and their prevention, and effective health promotion strategies. Ultimately, this project will prepare professionals to understand and support the health and wellness efforts of people with disabilities.
The purpose of the Disability Studies Health and Wellness training project initially was to plan and carry out a health and wellness disability studies course based in the Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. This project was modified from the creation of a course to the development of a module on health promotion and disability to be included in a disability and public health curriculum that will be implemented at OHSU. The target audience for the project is graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines, including but not limited to, public health, psychology, special education and rehabilitation counseling, medicine, nursing, social work, occupational and physical therapy, and assistive technology. The goal of this project is to develop a teaching curriculum for public health students that promotes the understanding and inclusion of disabilities in the field of public health. The purpose of the RRTC module in particular is to examine definitions of health, wellness, and disability, identify disparities in health and wellness for people living with disabilities, and explore the role of health promotion in reducing disparities and preventing secondary conditions.
Curriculum components were identified using a combination of applied intervention and capacity building strategies with an interdisciplinary focus group. Focus group members met over a period of two months and developed the ten curriculum modules. RRTC staff will be collaborating with OODH project staff to create the module on health promotion and disability. The module will be based on the RRTC’s work and the most recent research findings in the field of disability and health. It will address definitions of health and wellness for people living with a disability, the impact of secondary conditions, and the role of health promotion in terms of policy, research, and programming for people living with disabilities. Project staff will field-test the manual by conducting a Disability and Public Health course through Oregon Health & Science University’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Field-testing is planned in other sites for the following times:
- Fall 2003 – University of Nevada, Reno
- Fall 2003 – Oregon State University
- Spring 2004 – Boston University
- Spring 2004 – University of California, Berkeley
The curriculum will be evaluated through satisfaction questionnaires, survey instruments, and course evaluations. Revisions based on evaluation and feedback data from field-test sites will be implemented prior to further dissemination.
Disabilities are a public health concern, requiring population-based surveillance, systematic efforts to address primary disabling conditions and the prevention of secondary conditions, and a broader understanding of disability issues. By developing, field-testing, and evaluating a curriculum that teaches contemporary perspectives and issues of disability to public health students this project promotes an increased understanding and inclusion of disabilities in the field of public health and advances the role and importance of health promotion for people living with disabilities.
- Future research needs to identify the barriers to inclusion of disability issues across public health curriculum
- Future policies need to integrate disability issues into existing graduate public health education
- More opportunities need to be created for public health professionals to be trained in health promotion and disability.