All people have the right to conditions and resources that ensure optimal health. Yet, inaccessible facilities, lack of transportation to recreation venues, absence of knowledgeable staff who know how to adapt programs and a general attitude among providers that people with disability need specialized vs. integrated services, feeds into a culture of isolation and separation.

These circumstances further expose an already vulnerable population to higher rates of obesity and health disparities.

Facing facts

With rates of obesity 2 to 4 times higher in children and adults with disability compared to the general population, there is an urgent need to establish new models of health promotion that focus on the integration of people with disability. Working at the community level to promote healthy living and prevent chronic disease brings the greatest health benefits to the greatest number of people in need.

"The experience of entering into a society where inclusion and acceptance are the norm is a powerful shift."

Community Health Inclusion encompasses a culture where all people have equal access and opportunities to participate in healthy living where they live, work, learn and play by implementing policy, system and environmental changes that increase access to physical activity, healthful food and healthy weight management initiatives.

“Including people with disability in community-based obesity prevention and reduction programs is an important step to bridge the gap between the known health disparities for people with disability and implementing solutions to improve health”, says Dr. James H. Rimmer, Director of the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, the nation’s only Center working cross-disability in promoting health and wellness to people of all ages and abilities. “Facilitating the inclusion of people with disability raises the ‘consciousness level’ of all stakeholders engaged in community health.”

Independence through inclusion

Efforts to create healthy, inclusive communities will directly affect generations to come. Physical activity can open the door to a lifetime of good health. Activity can also be the key for someone to seek employment, education and become an active, vibrant citizen.

The outcome of inclusive physical activity communities is a society that respects and values the rights of all to have equal access to physical activity. In the manner that assistive technology creates opportunity, independence, and a better quality of life for people with disability, the same can be argued for inclusion. Whether a disability is acquired or present from birth, the experience of entering into a society where inclusion and acceptance are the norm is a powerful shift.