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article imageStartling figures on U.S. disability rates

By Tim Sandle     Aug 3, 2015 in Health
Washington - One in 5 adults in the U.S. has some form of disability, according to a new report. The most commonly reported issue is mobility, shown with difficulty in climbing stairs. This is followed by dementia.
The figures have been released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The aim of the report is to highlight how care systems are ill-equipped to cope with the number of disabled people and, if trends continue, how systems are not being geared up for the future.
The report highlights the major types of disability as:
1. Mobility,
2. Cognition,
3. Inability to live independently,
4. Vision and other eye related issues.
In terms of demographics, the majority of disabled people are found in southern states. Here the largest concentration is to be found in Alabama, where 32 percent of the population have been assessed (either by a health agency or through self-assessment) as disabled. Alabama is followed by Mississippi and Tennessee. These states also have the highest levels of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Rates are higher among women compared with men, and ethnic minorities are disproportionately over-represented. With ethnicity, those classed as non-Hispanic black had the highest rates. In addition, there is a higher proportion of the disabled among those with low incomes and those with a lower level of education.
Behind the headline figures there lies a complex pattern. Selecting this, Elizabeth Courtney-Long, a health scientist with CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, told USA Today, is complex but necessary. "We know disability types and related challenges can vary,” she told the news outlet, adding "In order to understand and address their needs, we need to understand their diverse circumstances. This report provides a snapshot into that."
Commenting on the need for improved services, CDC Director Tom Frieden said: “We are all at risk of having a disability at some point in our lifetime. Health professionals and health care systems need to meet the needs of this growing population.”
Measures required, Dr. Frieden remarks, include health promotion programs and health care services, including preventive health screenings. In relation to these, it is important that healthcare services are accessible.
It is also noticeable, the CDC reports, that people with disabilities are often excluded from surveys and assessments that are designed to bring their needs and issues to forefront. It is important, therefore, for greater inclusion in public health surveys, public health programs, emergency preparedness and planning efforts.
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