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Article

Children and adults with intellectual disabilities have poorer health and are more likely to die sooner than their non–intellectually disabled peers. There is growing evidence that some of these inequalities in health are avoidable, unjust, and unfair, given that they are driven by the higher rates of exposure of people with intellectual disabilities to well-established social determinants of poor health. People with intellectual disabilities are more likely than their peers to: live in poverty, not be employed (or if employed to work under precarious conditions), be exposed to discrimination and violence, face significant barriers in accessing effective health care, and be less resilient when exposed to adversities. In other words, they are examples of health inequities that arise from “the societal conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, referred to as social determinants of health. These include early years’ experiences, education, economic status, employment and decent work, housing and environment, and effective systems of preventing and treating ill health” (World Health Organization). Future research needs to address three key issues. First, most of the existing evidence is based on the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities in the world’s high-income countries. In contrast, the vast majority of the world’s population live in middle- and low-income countries. The limited evidence available suggests that children with intellectual disabilities growing up in middle- and low-income countries are much more likely than their peers to be growing up in poverty and to be exposed to specific social determinants of poorer health associated with poverty such as undernutrition, poor sanitation, low levels of parental stimulation, violent parental discipline, and hazardous forms of child labor. Second, little research has focused on health inequalities and inequities among two important groups of people with intellectual disabilities: people with intellectual disabilities from minority ethnic communities and people with mild intellectual disabilities. Third, very little research has attempted to test the proposition that people with intellectual disabilities may be more or less resilient than their peers when exposed to social determinants of health. While much remains to be learned about the inequalities and inequities faced by people with intellectual disabilities, the existing knowledge is sufficient to guide and drive changes in policy and practice that could reduce the health inequities faced by people with intellectual disabilities. These include: improving the visibility of people with intellectual disabilities in local, national, and international health surveillance systems; making “reasonable accommodations” to the operation of health care systems (e.g., introducing annual health checks into primary care services, making “easy read” materials available, employing intellectual disabilities liaison nurses in acute hospitals) to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are not exposed to systemic discrimination; and ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities (along with all other people with disabilities) are included in and benefit equally from local and national strategies to reduce population levels of exposure to well-established social determinants of poor health.

Article

There are an estimated 300 million indigenous peoples worldwide. Although there is ample evidence of worse health and social outcomes for the majority of indigenous peoples, compared to their non-indigenous counterparts, there has yet to be a review of racism as a determinant of indigenous health using global literature. Racism constitutes unfair and avoidable disparities in power, resources, capacities, or opportunities centered on ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural differences that can occur at three levels: internalized, interpersonal, or systemic. For indigenous peoples this is closely related to ongoing processes of colonization. Available research suggests that at least a third of indigenous adults experience racism at least once during their lives and that about a fifth of indigenous children experience racism. For indigenous peoples, racism has been associated with a considerable range of health outcomes, including psychological distress, anxiety, depression, suicide, posttraumatic stress disorder, asthma, physical illness, obesity, cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure, excess body fat, poor sleep, reduced general physical and mental health, and poor oral health, as well as increased alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use and underutilization of medical and mental healthcare services. Disparities in medical care experienced by indigenous patients compared to non-indigenous patients have also been found. Existing studies indicate that avoidant and passive coping tends to exacerbate the detrimental health impacts of racism for indigenous peoples, whereas active coping ameliorates the ill-health effects of racism. Reducing individual and interpersonal racism can be achieved by (a) providing accurate information and improving awareness of the nature of racism and racial bias; (b) activating values of fairness, reconciling incompatible beliefs, and developing antiracist motivation; (c) fostering empathy and perspective-taking and confidence in regulating emotional responses; (d) improving comfort with other groups and reducing anxiety; and (e) reinforcing antiracist social norms and highlighting personal accountability. There are five key areas for combating systemic racism in organizations and institutions: (a) institutional accountability; (b) diversity in human resources; (c) community partnership; (d) antiracism and cultural competence training; and (e) research and evaluation.

Article

Inequities in the United States have gained renewed attention as a result of social movements such as Black Lives Matter (racism), Me Too (sexual abuse and gender), and immigrant rights. Yet despite the growing awareness of inequality across major social categories, there has been little or no public attention paid to the persistent inequities facing older adults. The news media in the 2020 presidential elections uncritically reported charges that one, or both, candidates were “too old” for the job or had some other liability tied primarily to their age. There is a whole field of “anti-aging” medicine that claims to slow the biological process of senescence (distinct from fighting specific diseases), even as the greatest challenges of growing older are rooted in social and political processes. This reflects the ageism in society that results in undervaluing older adults’ lives and often marginalizes them. In addition, there are serious inequities within the older population based on class, race, gender, and citizenship status. Health inequities involve conditions that are avoidable, are not the result of informed choice (e.g., injuries among extreme sports participants), and which differ by membership in groups that hold different levels of power and resources. As such, inequities also include an element of “unfairness” such that the disadvantage is in groups with less power and resources than others.

Article

Compared to the general population, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) face worse health outcomes, and outcomes are even worse for children and adults with IDD from minoritized populations. Examining the intersection of people with IDD from minoritized groups is critical to understanding appropriate policies and services that promote health among all people with IDD. People with IDD from minoritized racial and ethnic groups have greater exposure to detrimental social determinants of health, which leads to poor access to adequate healthcare and poor health outcomes. Policies that aim to improve health outcomes among people with IDD and that are related to their disability and appropriate accommodations are not enough. Policies need to address poverty in families, racism and discrimination, poor housing, and other social determinants that are more prevalent among minoritized populations. Most research on racial and ethnic disparities among children and adults with IDD has been conducted in the United States. While there is emerging research globally on racial and ethnic disparities, there a paucity of this research in the field of IDD. Furthermore, there may be detrimental health effects for other minoritized groups, such as religious minorities, but research is lacking in this area. Clearly, more research on these intersections is needed in the global context.

Article

Undermining educational attainment at any stage is a threat to life course health. A strong educational platform is required for adequate human development in the 21st century because it provides a foundation for lifelong knowledge, skills, and competencies that protect health. The importance of educational attainment for health has been acknowledged but remains understudied as an interdisciplinary issue. In US American society, unequal educational opportunity is a historical reality and is reflected in health disparities among African American and Latinx populations over the life span. Reform efforts have been initiated for decades, yet gains in educational attainment show limited progress and wide disparities in lifetime health persist. Educational attainment is a fundamental social determinant of health because it leverages higher income, improves the management of other social determinants of health, improves social skills, improves occupational life chances, and extends life expectancy. The reverse is also true. Low educational attainment that is intergenerational imperils human development by failing to prepare youth with the capabilities to overcome structural disadvantages and poverty, which themselves imperil development. African American and Latinx populations in the United States, who together represent nearly 100 million people and who will be the largest component of the majority-minority American population by the year 2046, confront a web of aversive social determinants, including poverty in de facto segregated communities, violence and trauma, toxic exposures, poorly compensated and often temporary employment, a lack of universal health insurance, racism, and sexism in their daily lives. Clearly, there are social, biologic, and psychological issues associated with the educational attainment and health gradient, and early childhood learning experiences represent a critically important opportunity for human potential by advancing cognitive performance, problem-solving ability, motivation to learn, and overall structural and functional brain development. Families from low educational attainment backgrounds experience the negative impacts of social determinants in their daily lives, and their children’s life chances are diminished by poorly funded schools with ineffective educational programs. Putative causes and potential responses to overcoming the historical problem of neglect have been identified, and there are promising efforts at educational system reform aiming to promote health with effective programs and comprehensive strategies that will close the gaps in educational attainment.

Article

Accounting for about 15% of the world’s population, persons with disabilities constitute a critical population. Despite a substantial knowledge base in disability and public health, persons with disabilities have been remarkably invisible within general global public health. Public health’s view of disability is shifting from regarding disability only as an outcome to prevent, to using disability as a demographic characteristic that identifies a population experiencing a range of inequities. Alternative models of disability reflect how disability has been viewed over time. These models vary in their underlying values and assumptions, whether the locus of disability is the individual or the environment or their interaction, who designates “disability,” and the focus of intervention outcomes. The United Nations flagship report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals, 2018 documents that, as a group, the lives of persons with disabilities are marked by large disparities in Sustainable Development Goal indicators. These include increased likelihood of experiencing poverty, hunger, poor health, and unemployment, and greater likelihood of encountering barriers to education and literacy, clean water and sanitation, energy, and information technology. Overall, persons with disabilities experience greater inequalities, and this is particularly experienced by women and girls with disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters have highlighted the gaps in equality and consequent vulnerability of this population. Global disability data have improved dramatically during the decade from 2010 to 2020 with the advent of standardized disability question sets (Washington Group) and model surveys (Model Disability Survey). New studies from the Global South and North identify areas and strategies for interventions that can effectively advance the Sustainable Development Goals. This call-to-action outlines strategies for increasing visibility and improving wellbeing of persons with disabilities, particularly in the Global South. Increased visibility of the disability population within the global public health community can be achieved through active engagement of persons with disabilities. Improved collection of disability data and routine analysis by disability status can provide information vital to planning and policies. A twin-track approach can provide direction for interventions—inclusion in mainstream programs where possible, use of disability-specific and rehabilitation approaches where necessary. The article ends by outlining ways that multiple roles can increase the inclusion of persons with disabilities in global public health.