New Report Describes How Law and Policy Can Improve Health for People with Disabilities

Law and policy serve important roles to improve health for the 60 million Americans who live with a disability according to a new report from the Healthy People 2020 Law and Health Policy Project. The report highlights how legal and policy interventions can help communities increase access to care, make environments more accessible and support a society where everyone can live healthy lives. The Law and Health Policy Project is a collaboration among the CDC Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

People with disabilities face unique health challenges, including higher rates of common chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Many places present barriers to people with disabilities, including community spaces, health care settings and long-term care facilities. The report presents evidence-based policy solutions that community and tribal leaders, government officials, public health professionals, and local providers can use in their own communities to improve health and accessibility for people with disabilities.

Success stories in the report demonstrate how communities have already used laws and policies to achieve disability health goals. For example, Medicaid programs in several states have launched efforts to improve personal care assistance and other home-based services for people with disabilities. The report also calls for further data collection and health research to better inform policy and program development in the future. Strengthening and enforcing existing laws would also make an impact.

Healthy People 2020 is a national initiative that provides science-based, 10-year objectives to improve the health of all Americans. Healthy People 2020 serves as a tool for the federal government, states, communities and other health partners to develop health strategies and objectives. Insights from the Law and Health Policy Project will also inform health goals for the next decade through Healthy People 2030.

Individuals living with disabilities should be afforded equal access to all opportunities that will make their lives healthier and more fulfilling. Laws and policies serve as important tools to achieve that goal.

Eric Strunz
Eric Strunz is a program officer, Noninfectious Disease Programs, for the CDC Foundation.