Health Departments, Health Equity, and Intentional Inclusion

by Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN


Focus on Accreditation and Innovation addresses current issues related to the Public Health Accreditation Board’s national public health department accreditation program, and the Public Health National Center for Innovations. This series highlights the experiences and perspectives of accredited health departments and explores topics related to the Standards and Measures, research and evaluation findings, and the latest innovations in public health practice.

PHAB health equityAs health departments work on their health equity strategies, some of them have recognized that individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) are a group within their communities that is important to intentionally consider. Individuals with ID have a higher prevalence of adverse health conditions, less access to health promotion programs, inadequate attention to care needs, and inadequate access to quality health care services than the general population. They are also often excluded from strategies and activities aimed at health promotion and disease prevention. Yet, as they are living longer, they have the same chronic conditions that the general population has. The barriers for them to address those conditions, however, often loom large. Health departments can and are helping to reduce such barriers.

Under a grant from Special Olympics International, PHAB has been working on the identification of promising practices from accredited health departments that have intentionally focused on including individuals with intellectual disabilities in their work related to health promotion, emergency preparedness, and general program planning. An expert panel of individuals with content knowledge and representatives of the case study health departments have reviewed the case studies for publication on PHAB’s website. These case studies are intended to encourage other health departments to consider intentional inclusion in their public health work. Look for the case studies to be finalized and posted in February 2019. Until then, PHAB has a Tip Sheet that can guide health departments working on accreditation/reaccreditation to consider how to get started http://www.phaboard.org/wp-content/uploads/Inclusive-Health-and-Health-Department-AccreditationFinalforPosting.pdf. Special Olympics International also has a wealth of information which can be found at https://www.specialolympics.org/our-work/inclusive-health.

Let’s work together to ensure that these individuals are not left out of public health strategies aimed improving health and preventing disease!


Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN

Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the President and CEO of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial health departments. Prior to joining PHAB in 2009, she worked in both local and state public health practice in the Mississippi State Department of Health, including serving as Deputy State Health Officer for 12 years. Prior to that, she served as Dean of the University of Mississippi Medical School of Nursing and Associate Vice Chancellor for Nursing for six years. She was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2000.

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