Western University Receives Grant to Empower People with Disabilties to Improve Health Care
January 31, 2001
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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
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
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.