The Concept of Public Health Programs Tailored to Individuals with IDD


I’m so happy that my poster titled, Effectiveness of Tailored Nutrition Intervention Programs for Individuals, was accepted at the Florida Public Health Association (FPHA) 2015 Annual Educational Conference in Orlando.  I get to present it to my public health peers at this 3-day event; I’m exuberated with joy!  I must say that when you love what you do, you can’t help but to be preoccupied with almost every aspects of it; you just want to see progress and success in every areas.

A few years ago, I mentioned to someone that I wanted to shift my public health education efforts to the IDD population.  More specifically, I wanted to teach individuals with IDD to learn how to lead healthier lifestyles via health education/counseling, physical activity, and proper nutrition.  I remember the person saying to me that this notion would not work.  I sat and pondered the question ” Do individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) have the capacity to learn and maintain healthy lifestyles”?  Being someone who believes in the impossible, I took on the challenge.

Please follow along with me below to see the making and outcome of the pilot of this initiative:


Do individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) have the capacity to learn and maintain healthy lifestyles?


Adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities (CDC, 2014). Nearly half of all adults with disabilities do not participate in any physical activity, an important health behavior to help avoid these chronic diseases (CDC, 2012).

  • 39.3% of women and 27.8% of men with IDD are overweight or obese vs. 25.1% of women and 25.7% of men in the general population
  • Mean BMI for men and women were relatively comparable, 26.7 vs 28.8%
  • Down syndrome is associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity (Melville et al., 2008)
  • Developing obesity early in adulthood increases risk for obesity related diseases such as, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer (Melville et al., 2008).


For health providers, universities, organizations, and future health professionals to embrace the following perspectives:

  • Become well-versed with the health issues and other concerns facing the IDD population
  • Develop the knowledge and ability to improve, replicate, or implement appropriate evidence-based intervention programs
  • Support current health and wellness initiatives for persons with IDD
  • Collaborate and advocate at the community, institutional, and governmental levels, for more effective wellness and nutrition intervention programs tailored to this population


A sample of eight (8) participants out of an eligible target population of 300 adults with IDD were selected from an adult day program to participate in pilot study involving of a 10-week nutrition and physical activity evidence-based program tailored to this population.

  • Weekly interactive class lectures with visuals that explained the concepts of healthy food combinations and benefits, various physical activities, and hydration
  • Weekly exercise sessions, which included, floor exercise, stretching, aerobic, Zumba, walking
  • Counseling   and meal planning sessions with a nutritionist, recipes, food demonstrations, and trips to local farmer’s market
  • Pre/post anthropometrics measurements and food surveys were administered during week one and again at week ten to measure health progress and knowledge. Family members and caregivers were kept apprised


6 participants lost an average of 3-12 pounds

8 participants learned how to engage in healthier behaviors based results of pre and post food surveys, which showed a significant difference in knowledge.

Pre-Study                                                  Post-Study

Average Weight:

(W) 190.47                                                 (W) 187.18

Average BMI

33.23                                                                    32.7


Reinforcement from parents and caregivers played a huge role in the success of those individuals who lost weight. Participants’ whose parents were more involved loss the most weight.

Individuals with IDD do have the capacity to learn and maintain healthy lifestyles, based on this pilot study and subsequent evaluations that were conducted at the same adult day program.


Effective weight management interventions and clinical services such as, nutrition counseling, membership to exercise programs, and walking clubs


10-week Nutrition Program

  • Evidence-based interventions
  • Physical activity, health education, hydration, and nutrition counseling
  • Individualized meal plans
  • Pre and post anthropometrics and food surveys
  • Inclusion of staff, family members for reinforcing healthy choices
  • Need for future research to focus on reasons for increased obesity prevalence in IDD population (Melville et al., 2008).


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disability and Health Data System. (2012). Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adults with Disabilities. (2014). Vital Signs. Retrieved from

Krahn, G. L., & Fox, M. H. (2014). Health disparities of adults with intellectual disabilities: what do we know? What do we do?. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 27(5), 431-446.

Melville, C. A., Cooper, S. A., Morrison, J., Allan, L., Smiley, E., & Williamson, A. (2008). The prevalence and determinants of obesity in adults with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 21(5), 425-437.

World Health Organization. (2011). World report on disability. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from


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