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Perspectives on delivering health promotion for the intellectual disability population

23 June 2022
19 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 12


The qualitative study reported in this article set out to develop an understanding of how staff supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities deliver health promotion in their practice. The aim was to determine how social care managers working within an intellectual disability care setting in Ireland perceived health promotion and their role within it. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect the data. Participants perceived health promotion to be a priority for this population group that should be tailored to meet individual needs. Study participants recognised that they have a role in supporting and providing health promotion for this population, but also that they themselves required more training and education on the issue. Health promotion enablers identified in the study for this client group need to be enhanced and ways to reduce the barriers to access identified. The results reflect observations reported in the literature and indicate a need to prioritise health promotion with this population by establishing policies and practices in the organisation to promote it. A requirement for relevant training and education for social care managers—and other staff, as appropriate—was identified, as were areas for further research.

The World Health Organization (WHO) (2015) identifies disability as a global public health issue, a human rights issue and a development priority because, throughout their life course, individuals with disability face widespread barriers in accessing health and related services such as health care, education, employment and social services. To explore the potential role of health promotion in addressing the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities, it is helpful to frame this discussion about a definition of health promotion. The WHO Ottawa Charter describes health promotion as ‘the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health’. It also defines health as a resource for everyday life (WHO, 1986). To maximise support for health, the charter stresses the need for a ‘charter of action’ to ensure health services are inclusive of all people. This can be challenging when considering the health needs of people with disability. This article explores the role of one cohort of staff who daily interact, support and advocate for such individuals, and their understanding of health promotion.

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