Iowa: Center for Disabilities and Development, University of Iowa in Iowa City

June 18, 2007

Through its CDC-funded Secondary Conditions Interventions grant, the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD) has offered "Living Well with a Disability" (LWD), a health promotion/wellness program, to over 500 individuals with disabilities in 10 Iowa communities over the past six years. Developed by researchers at the University of Montana's Rural Institute on Disabilities, LWD consists of eight weekly two-hour training sessions and covers such topics as goal-setting, healthy reactions, nutrition, physical activity, and systems advocacy. Because peer support is a key program component, most training facilitators are individuals with disabilities. To build on an already strong peer support model, CDD staff developed and successfully piloted a four-week "refresher course" to LWD entitled "Continuing to Live Well with a Disability." Preliminary findings from a five year outcomes evaluation of LWD suggest that program participants have fewer hospitalizations, less pain and fatigue, fewer secondary conditions including significantly less depression, and fewer limitations in walking and moderate physical activity. In addition, participants report they are able to do more and have experienced an improvement in their overall health.

CDD staff has also developed "Staying Healthy and Living Well," a 10-lesson health promotion course targeting high school students with disabilities who are expected to make independent life decisions as adults. "Staying Healthy and Living Well" uses key concepts from the LWD curriculum and provides an experiential learning opportunity for students. CDD staff have collaborated with Iowa school districts to offer approximately 15 Staying Healthy courses. Preliminary results, primarily gleaned through student and teacher satisfaction surveys, are encouraging. The curriculum will be advertised and made available to all Iowa high schools. In 2006, the project launched a comprehensive website, found at The site offers resources for individuals with disabilities, training facilitators, and LWD training site coordinators. LWD graduates and other individuals with disabilities are encouraged to join the project's listserv, where they are free to exchange resources and suggestions for healthy living.

Through its Secondary Conditions Interventions grant, CDD has entered the pre-service education arena through partnerships with the University of Iowa Physician Assistant Training Program and College of Medicine. Staff and consultants with disabilities developed a series of vignettes to instruct students on the appropriate treatment of patients with disabilities. The training has been offered to students in the Physician Assistant Training program since 2005 and for first year students in the College of Medicine since 2006. It has yielded extremely positive feedback. Evaluations showed that students appreciated the "true to life" experience of learning directly from individuals with disabilities and their families In April of this year, we expanded our collaboration with the College of Medicine by incorporating simulated examinations of children and adults with disabilities to be conducted by third year medical students.