Illinois: Institute on Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois in Chicago

June 18, 2007

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (RRTCADD) at the Institute on Disability and Human Development is providing training to hundreds of staff working in community-based organizations across the United States and internationally, (including California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, Nebraska, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Taiwan) to develop and implement health promotion programs for individuals with I/DD. This Train-the-Trainer training builds on the RRTCADD's successful curriculum "Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for Adults with Developmental Disabilities."

The health promotion curriculum is an innovative interactive twelve-week program where participants are encouraged to examine their attitudes toward health, food, and exercise; gain skills and knowledge about healthy eating and exercising; participate in and identify their preferences in each activity; and locate places in the community where they can exercise. The curriculum incorporates opportunities for making choices, self-determination, self-advocacy, and problem solving techniques. The study is one of the first to examine the effectiveness of a community-based health promotion program to improve the health and well-being of adults with I/DD. A primary aim of the training is to teach staff strategies for implementing health promotion programs for adults with I/DD and to support adults with I/DD in developing goals to increase healthy behaviors. Currently, the training encourages the development of peer co-facilitators. Future modules will incorporate peer leadership sessions to increase long-term lifestyle changes.

Training has a wider and more cost-effective dissemination as more persons can be trained with less staff time and agency resources. The training is currently being beta tested as a web-based curriculum. This will allow additional modules to be developed and will assist with wider dissemination of the curriculum. The web-based curriculum may allow participants to feel less anxious about making mistakes when they complete the exercises through on-line simulations. Varying skill levels and topics can also be covered by having participants work at their own pace in on-line session that focus on a variety of applications; and participants can work on the topic and tutorial skill level that best suit their needs which can result in greater learning gains. Lastly, training is easier to systematically replicate.

The research project and trainings have had many positive outcomes. Compared to the lag group, participants in the exercise group reported several areas of improvement including the following: general health status, reports of pain, self-efficacy to exercise, increased SES for exercise, balance, and flexibility immediately following the exercise program (p < .05). Results from preliminary analysis found that 45% of the participants consume less than two servings of fruits and vegetables per day, 64% had little or no involvement in food preparation, shopping, and meal planning, 33% reported that the food they eat is not healthy, and 11% reported that they do not like the food that they eat. Immediately after the 12-week program, nutrition and activity knowledge increased significantly for participants in intervention group compared to the lag group.