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Western University Receives Grant to Empower People with Disabilties to Improve Health Care

by Rodney Tanaka

January 31, 2001

Read 3 mins

The Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions (CDIHP) at

Western University of Health Sciences has received a $287,469, three-year

grant from the California HealthCare Foundation to create a program that

will develop educational strategies for people with disabilities on how to

identify and obtain quality health care.

“”Californians with disabilities have trouble obtaining the scope and

quality of health care services needed to maintain their independence and

productivity,”” said Brenda Premo, MBA, founding director of the CDIHP. “”In

the mainstream health care world, people with a disability deal with a

health care environment that is not trained to respond to their needs,

because they are not generally a primary focus of practitioners who have

not been educated about treating patients with existing disabilities.

“”We will create a program in which people with disabilities will provide

us with the health care quality issues of importance to them. We will then

develop educational materials for people with disabilities. The goal is to

help people with disabilities empower themselves to obtain the quality of

health care they need.””

People with disabilities live in a health care world that fails to look at

them as individuals first, rather than as someone with a disability, Premo

said. Having a mammography, for example, almost always requires that a

woman stand up for the X-ray – a problematic scenario for a woman who uses

a wheelchair.

According to a 1993 U.S. Census report (the most recent available), in

1990, 20.6 percent of the general population had some type of disability.

In California, with approximately 33 million residents at that time, that

meant that at least six million people dealt with disability issues on a

day-to-day basis.

With the California HealthCare Foundation grant, the CDIHP will work with

consumers at six California Independent Living Centers – three in Northern

California and three in Southern California – to process the information

given to them by the disabled people who receive services from the

Centers, which will be used by “”empowerment team leaders”” who train others

to employ these quality standards, Premo said.

The materials will be tested, evaluated and disseminated throughout the

disabled community, disability related organizations and rehabilitation

centers, she added.

The project has the potential to affect up to 150,000 people with

disabilities in Northern California and up to 200,000 people with

disabilities in Southern California, Premo said.

Western University founded the CDIHP in 1998 to enhance health professions

education and to improve access for people with disabilities to health,

health education and health care services. Overarching goals of the CDIHP

include: 1) improving the capabilities of health care providers to meet

the growing needs of people with a disability, 2) increasing the number of

qualified individuals with disability who pursue careers in the health

professions, and 3) enabling people with disability to become more vocal

and active participants in their health care. CDIHP Director Premo is a

nationally known disability rights advocate who ran the California

Department of Rehabilitation under former Governor Pete Wilson.

The California HealthCare Foundation, based in Oakland, California, is a

non-profit philanthropy whose mission is to expand access to affordable,

quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to

promote fundamental improvements in the health status of the people of


For more information on the CDIHP, or the California HealthCare Foundation

grant, contact Premo at (909) 469-5385.


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