June 6, 2005

For Disabled Parents, Extra Family Services Could Improve Entire Family’s Health

Research from Tufts University illustrates the significant role parental disability plays in overall family health as indicated by immunization rates for young children. Raymond Hyatt, PhD, of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, recently published these findings in the June 2005 issue of Medical Care. The report assessed the likelihood that children of parents with a disability receive their childhood immunizations on time. Disability, in this study, is identified as the gap between a personal capability and an environmental demand, and is therefore avoidable or modifiable through intervention.

"We found that children living in households with one or more parents who are disabled are 65% less likely to receive the recommended immunizations by age two as children whose parents are not disabled," reports Hyatt. "These results suggest that disability is truly 'a family affair'."

The study, according to Hyatt, determined that parental disability does indeed impact the whole family's access to health care and therefore their health status. Implications of this study, he says, could raise awareness of this association, and stimulate change. Support services for parents with a disability, for instance, would enhance children's access to health services. Vaccinations are an important preventive public health measure, and could be more easily obtained for these children if appropriate services were in place.

"There should be enough resources to match support services with parents who have severe disabilities and dependent children. Outreach to this population will improve the health outcomes of the whole family," suggests Hyatt.

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