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Western University Developing Program to Improve Health Care Delivery to People with Disabilities

by Rodney Tanaka

April 30, 2001

Read 3 mins

Efforts to improve the delivery of health care services for individuals

living with disabilities are under way thanks to a program in development

by Western University of Health Sciences’ Center for Disability Issues and

the Health Professions (CDIHP). The CDIHP training program will teach

health care providers how to improve the quality of care they give their

patients with disabilities. Funding for the program was provided by a

$611,140 grant from The California Endowment, the state’s largest health


Western University founded the CDIHP to prepare health care professionals

to better meet the primary care needs of people with disabilities. Under

the direction of nationally renowned disabled rights activist Brenda Premo-

past director of the California Department of Rehabilitation under former

Governor Pete Wilson-the CDIHP emphasizes both immediate reforms in

educational curriculum as well as long-term research on policies and

related issues.

“”In the first phase of this project, we focused on the identification of

educational materials and the development of a curriculum framework

designed to improve access and care for persons who have disabilities,””

Premo said. “”In the second phase, we will focus on developing hands-on

case study and internship opportunities, integrating and formalizing the

curricula into its pre- and post-graduate educational programs as well as

marketing and conducting them.””

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans age 65 and

older will double in the next 30 years, dramatically increasing the number

of patients with age-related disabilities, including decreased mobility,

sensory perception and reasoning. It is estimated that close to 20 percent

of the U.S. population – almost 50 million people – lives with some form

of permanent or long-term disability. Strokes alone disable more than

500,000 Americans annually.

Among the specific programs the CDIHP will undertake with the funding are:

* Develop and integrate hands-on case study and internship opportunities

working with people with disabilities into the health provider training


* A study on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of 1,500-2,000 primary

care physicians in California in regard to people with disabilities.

* Introduce the CDIHP’s curriculum into the core health professions

educational programs at Western University so that the University’s

graduates will better understand the needs of their patients with


* Work with at least three HMOs to incorporate the CDIHP’s curriculum into

their medical/health profession’s training programs. (In fact, the CDIHP

already is operating two of these programs – the first with the Inland

Empire Health Plan and Cal Optima.)

As a result of its efforts, the CDIHP plans to see improved access to

quality health services for people with disabilities, Premo said.

“”In the big picture, our goal is to impress upon providers that disability

is but one variation in the human experience and that persons with

disabilities can be valued partners in the patient-provider relationship,””

said LeeAnne Carrothers, PhD, PT, director of curriculum for the CDIHP.

“”Data gathered by the state’s Managed Care Task Force indicates that

educational institutions are not adequately preparing the health care work

force to meet the medical needs of California’s growing disabled and aging

population,”” said Jose Marquez, program officer with The California

Endowment. “”The Endowment is pleased to provide funding for this program

that aims to raise the level of provider knowledge, and improve the

quality of services for this underserved population.””

The California Endowment was established in 1996 to expand access to

affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and

communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status

of all Californians. The Endowment has regional offices in Los Angeles,

San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego with program staff working

throughout the state. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and

institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people

of California. For more information, visit their Web site at

For more information on the CDIHP, visit its Web site at, or contact Premo at (909) 469-5380.


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