Disability Prevalence in the US and Public Health Program Interventions

The most recent issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report analyzed the first data available on the functional types of disability in a state-based health survey and determined prevalence of functional disability.

The most recent issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report analyzed the first data available on the functional types of disability in a state-based health survey and determined prevalence of functional disability.

The information can be used to help public health programs identify the prevalence of and the characteristics associated with different disability types to better target appropriate interventions and reduce health disparities.

According to the data, disabilities in mobility and cognition were the most frequently reported types, although state-level prevalence varied. South Dakota reported the highest prevalence in disability in cognition (16.8%) while North Dakota reported the lowest (6.9%). In addition, disability in mobility was most prevalent in Mississippi (20.7%) and least prevalent in Minnesota (8.5%).

“Access to preventive health care is also critically important for those with disabilities,” Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Human Development and Disability, said in a statement. “Many of the health issues that people with disabilities face may be addressed by making sure they have access to health promotion programs and health care services, including preventive health screenings, throughout their lifespan.”

Overall, 22.2% of US adults reported any disability, with prevalence of any disability higher in Arkansas (31.5%) and lowest in Minnesota (16.4%). In general, disability prevalence was higher in the South, an area of the country that has high prevalence of social determinants of poor health, the report noted. States in the West or Midwest had lower prevalence of disability.

The report also found higher prevalence of any disability among women compared with men, among black-non-Hispanic adults, and the highest prevalence of any disability in those age 65 years and older. Respondents with higher household income and higher levels of education had a lower prevalence of any disability. The CDC investigators noted that given this information public health programs for people with disabilities might need to account for lower health literacy, which is associated with lower education levels.

“Having information about disability types, the demographic profiles of persons with different disability types, and health disparities associated with disabilities will better enable researchers and program planners to make more focused, data-driven decisions and modify existing interventions to more effectively improve the health of persons with disabilities,” the authors concluded.