In response to the need women with disabilities have for even the most

basic of health care services, a new training program for health care

professionals and people with disabilities has recently been introduced by

the Center for Disability

Issues and the Health Professions (CDIHP) at Western University of

Health Sciences.

Developed for use by physicians and other health care providers, the

breakthrough Pathways? Series is a comprehensive training program stored

on CD-ROMs, which include written material, printable protocols, still

pictures and video designed to improve the delivery of health care

services urgently needed by people with disabilities.

The first phase of the program addresses the delivery of preventive breast

care to women with a wide range of disabilities. The Pathway Series

BREAST CARE includes practical instructions on adapting breast self-exam,

breast exams performed by health care professionals, and mammograms. The

price is $249.

According to LeeAnne Carrothers, PT, PhD, associate professor and director

of curriculum for the CDIHP, and the primary author of the program, too

many women with disabilities go without the most basic health care

services. Adequate breast care, including self-exams, exams in the

practitioner’s office, and mammograms are essential to overall wellness,

not to mention early diagnosis of breast cancer.

“”It’s absolutely shocking to hear the stories of women with disabilities

who have never had a breast exam,”” she said. “”Or who find they have

breast cancer when it’s too late. For those with disabilities, the program

is long overdue.””

In the past several years, the inadequacy of health care services for

people with disabilities has become more and more evident, according to

Dr. Carrothers. She said there have been a number of lawsuits brought by

disabled individuals against managed care organizations and health care

providers who failed to provide basic, necessary services.

In most cases, the individuals bringing the lawsuits have been awarded

damages, and managed care organizations are scrambling to find solutions

to this problem.

The program was a collaborative effort between Oakland-based Breast Health

Access for Women with Disabilities (BHAWD) and the CDIHP. BHAWD provided

the initial protocols from which the instructional materials were

developed.

“”BREAST CARE is only the first in a series of training modules,”” said

Brenda Premo, MBA, CDHIP director. “”We’re committed to developing a

comprehensive program that addresses major health care issues facing

practitioners and consumers with disabilities. Our goal is to integrate

this information into curricula in medical schools and other educational

settings. And we want every person with a disability to take

responsibility for his or her own care. All of these goals are

accomplished through education.””

Ms. Premo said many health care professionals have not been educated in

providing basic health care services to people with disabilities and,

therefore, focus on treating disability- related issues rather than

managing the individual’s overall health or wellness. Others do not know

how to alter current styles of care delivery to accommodate individuals

with disabilities. “”People with disabilities are usually not good

advocates for their own care,”” she said. “”As a result, even the most

routine health care services are often overlooked.””

The CDIHP has an ongoing commitment to the development of curricula and

training modules that assist health care professionals in understanding

the issues facing people with disabilities and learning how to provide

quality care. Current and future Pathways? training modules will focus on

the health care requirements of this growing patient population, and how

to address the needs of the “”whole”” person in a clinical setting. The

CDIHP works to enhance education in the health professions, and to improve

access for people with disabilities to health care services, health

education, and the health care professions.

The CDIHP Web site offers educational tools, valuable resources and links

in a number of areas related to improving healthcare for people with

disabilities. For more information, contact Premo at Western University,

Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions, 309 E. 2nd St.,

Pomona, CA 91766, (909) 469-5380, http://www.westernu.edu/cdihp.

About the Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions and

Western University of Health Sciences

Western University of Health Sciences established the CDIHP in 1998 in

response to the concerns of the disability community, which is one of the

nation’s fastest growing and least understood minority groups. Western

University is an independent, accredited, non-profit university, granting

post-baccalaureate professional degrees in health sciences disciplines