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Research confirms healthcare is harder to access for those with developmental disabilities

According to the research, there is a lower uptake of cancer
screening in adults with development disabilities compared
with the rest of Ontarians.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Autism and Down syndrome could mean a harder time accessing healthcare for the 66,000 adults under age 65 in Ontario with those or other developmental disabilities, says new research.

In the largest study of its kind, the Atlas on the Primary Care of Adults with Developmental Disabilities in Ontario found that adults with developmental disabilities live in poorer neighbourhoods and have higher rates of physical and mental health problems than other Ontario adults.

Helene Ouellette-Kuntz, associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen’s and co-author of the Atlas, says that this research confirms significant inequality in healthcare for adults with developmental disabilities in Ontario.

“I led the writing of chapter four of the atlas, which focused on secondary prevention. It identifies much lower uptake of cancer screening in adults with developmental disabilities compared to the rest of Ontarians,” says Dr. Ouellette-Kuntz. “An annual comprehensive health assessment is recommended for adults with developmental disabilities precisely to ensure that consideration is given to screening for disease in this vulnerable population.”

Dr. Ouellette-Kuntz also contributed to the chapter of the atlas on medication, which reveals a lack of follow-up in two thirds of individuals who were dispensed five or more medications.

The Atlas is the product of several years of work researching healthcare disparities faced by adults with developmental disabilities in Canada. The initial work was led by researchers at Queen’s through the Healthcare Equity for Intellectually Disabled Individuals (HEIDI) research program with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.