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Product Information Closing the Gap: A National Blueprint to Improve the Health of Persons with Mental Retardation

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The United States Surgeon General's Office has recognized that persons with intellectual disabilities often do not have access to the same types of healthcare as do other Americans. As persons with intellectual disabilities leave institutions, or never enter them to begin with, it is becoming typical for them to not receive regular follow-up from physicians, nor to have access to specialists as needed. To address theses issues, the United Surgeon General's has developed a national plan to improve the quality of health care received by Americans with intellectual disabilities. The plan is partially based on comments from the public received in a series of regional meeting held throughout the country in 2001, and was developed at a two-day national conference that included nationally recognized researchers, health professionals, family members, and self-advocates interested in improving the healthcare available to people with intellectual disabilities.

A few recommendations included in this national plan are:

- To improve access of persons with intellectual disabilities to treatments and programs focused on prevention of disease and health promotion.

- To improve pre-service training, and continuing education programs for physicians and other health care professionals to increase their awareness and competency in treating persons with intellectual disabilities.

- To take steps to encourage health care professionals to treat people with intellectual disabilities based on their age and health care needs, rather than only their disability

- To improve the quality of healthcare received by persons with intellectual disabilities through strategies such as identifying common areas of deficient care, and developing standards of care in supporting the health of these persons.

- To ensure health care financing strategies support quality care for people with intellectual disabilities.

- To increase access to healthcare for children, youth, and adults with intellectual disabilities through increasing access to community-based care, and increasing access to specialists.

- To revise human subjects protection standards so that persons with intellectual disabilities are more likely to be included in research and clinical trials.

The report includes a great deal of information in its appendices regarding the current health status of Americans with intellectual disabilities. This includes summaries of introductory and research presentations made at the national conference, examples of exemplary healthcare programs operating around the country, and summaries of comments made by the public in regional meetings held around the United States prior to the conference.
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This web site is maintained by the Research and Training Center on Community Living with support from the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, the Human Services Research Institute and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. E-mail weste050@umn.edu.
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