The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities
The Call to Action At-a-Glance
About 54 million Americans of all ages, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status and education levels are living with at least one disability. That is more than 20 percent of the people in the United States. A disability may affect the body, mind or senses and can limit a person from taking part in day-to-day life. People may be born with or acquire a a disability, and most people in the United States will have a disability at some point in their life.
Health and illness exist at different levels; so, too, does disability. However, disability is not an illness. Illnesses can vary in degree from person to person. The same is true for disabilities. The same disability may affect one person in a different way than it does another. This is particularly true if someone cannot get needed treatment or services.
Persons without disabilities do not always understand what life is like for persons with disabilities. This is something that needs to be changed. To do this, it is important to make everyone aware of the barriers that may prevent persons with disabilities from becoming and remaining active in their community.
The principle on which this Call to Action is based is: Good health is necessary for persons with disabilities to have the freedom to work, learn and engage actively in their families and their communities.
To make this happen, this Call to Action looks to reach the following goals:
- People nationwide understand that persons with disabilities can lead long, healthy, productive lives
- Health care providers have the knowledge and tools to screen, diagnose and treat the whole person with a disability with dignity.
- Persons with disabilities can promote their own good health by developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles.
- Accessible health care and support services promote independence for persons with disabilities
These will not be easy tasks. Many barriers stand in the way. For example, more research needs to be done about disability, health care providers need to be better educated and trained, and health care and services for persons with disabilities need to be easier to access.
This Call to Action is based on what is known and what has been observed about disability, health and wellness. It touches on the costs of inaction, in both human and dollar-and-cent terms. However, its main focus is on the need to put complete health care within the reach of persons with disabilities. Thus, persons with disabilities will be able to lead a full life in their community.
This Call to Action is important for leaders in both the public and private sectors and for people who make or have input to community programs. The goals, put into action, can help employers of persons with disabilities increase work output and lower total health care costs. People who work with and for persons with disabilities can use this Call to Action to make others aware that persons with disabilities can be equal partners in all aspects of American life.
The health and wellness for persons with disabilities today is a matter of public health concern. Everyone needs to be made aware of the health issues for persons with disabilities. Swift action needs to be taken to ensure that these matters are brought to the attention of those who can help. Without such action, the quality of life for 54 millions Americans will be lessened. To that end, the principle and goals that define this Call to Action must be acted upon. Barriers must be identified and solutions must be found and, more importantly, set into motion.
This Call to Action provides a blueprint for these solutions. It clearly states the challenges, strategies and research priorities that are required. These four areas were crafted with input not only from health specialists in the disability field, but also with input from members of the disability community. Therefore, it is not just the science side of disability that is presented, but also the reality of living with disability by those who do it daily.
The cost of disability to the nation is measured not only in dollars, but in human lives. When a person with a disability is “lost” because the existing health care system cannot provide the needed level of care, it is a loss for everyone. Understanding the health and wellness of persons with disabilities is the first step to help change that situation. That is what this Call to Action is all about; that is why disability is a critical public health issue today.
Last revised: January 4, 2007