Kentucky ranks higher than the national average on rates for obesity, high blood pressure and regulatory medications, which can be explained by behavioral factors such as physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Add in a disability and the numbers are even more startling. According to the Centers for Disease Control Disability & Health Data system in 2013, Kentuckians with cognitive or mobility limitations experience higher health disparities than the general population.
Project CHEER is an exciting effort focusing on accessibility of health promotion activities for individuals with varying levels of abilities with the intent of improving health and quality of life for a population that is often excluded from health programming and typically experiences worse health outcomes and greater health disparities. The purpose of project CHEER is to address and improve startling health disparities among individuals with cognitive and mobility limitations by working to empower these Kentuckians to make healthy lifestyle choices in order to reduce negative health outcomes.
To accomplish this we are building upon the foundation already set by our previous statewide scale up of HealthMatters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. From 2014-2017 in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago, 19 organizations across the state have received free training and technical assistance on implementation of this evidence based program with supports to create on-site wellness committees for sustainable wellness efforts. However, in working to support these organizations barriers were identified that full participation in a behavior change health program required universal design adaptations for broader accessibility. This is where the need for Project CHEER stemmed fourth.
Project CHEER will enhance and supplement health promotion strategies for inclusion in the following ways:
- Incorporate universal design strategies with input from experts and self-advocates in programming
- Create adapted interactive training resources in nutrition and exercise
- Focus on community programming and educational opportunities while providing technical assistance and support with lessons learned for future programming that builds community capacity for culture of wellness
- Promote collaborations with public health and other key partnerships along with community education to promote community wide inclusion in health efforts