FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

February 2013

RTC Project Making Wellness More Accessible for People with Disabilities

Adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, like the U.S. population as a whole, face challenges in establishing and maintaining healthy, active lifestyles. This population, however, is more likely than the general public to live with complex health conditions, have limited access to health promotion programs, report inadequate levels of physical activity, and, for people with some types of disabilities, be overweight or obese. While there are many excellent wellness resources available to the public, they typically are not customized to address the needs of adults with significant limitations in communication, reading, and learning. To help meet this need for wellness resources that are accessible for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is engaged in a project titled, Partnership in Wellness: A Training Curriculum for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

This project of the Institute’s Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC) is targeting adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who require ongoing daily supports, have limited or no reading skills, and would benefit from learning about improved nutrition and active living. It is developing and testing a research-based, universally-designed health promotion curriculum that addresses the unique learning needs of this population. With input from adults with disabilities, their support staff and family members, and a technical advisory group from academic and community sources, the curriculum is being tailored to people with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, and designed to be completed by teams consisting of a person with a disability paired with an adult family member or direct support staff. It will be pilot-tested in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, refined, and then field-tested to look at its effectiveness in reducing the incidence of overweight/obesity, and in increasing physical activity. Preliminary data will then guide implementation of a larger scale study of the effectiveness of this program for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in comparison to other health promotion programs aimed at the general population.

“Growing the area of health and wellness research related to people with disabilities – especially those with significant limitations in communication, reading, and learning – is a primary goal of the RTC,” says project co-director Pat Salmi. “In addition to this project, we are developing two health and wellness lessons for the RTC’s Self-Advocacy Online Web site; these will be used during the project and also be available to anyone who visits the site. And we will be updating and expanding the wellness-related curricula within our College of Direct Support courses for Direct Support professionals around the country. Our overarching goal is to continue this line of research to better understand how to motivate and support individuals with disabilities to pursue wellness and become better advocates for their own health.”

Partnership in Wellness, which began in October 2012, is co-directed by Sherri Larson and Pat Salmi of the RTC, and is funded by a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

FFI contact Pat at or 612-625-9700.