Improving the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities. Guidance for social care providers and commissioners (to support implementation of the health charter)
People with learning disabilities have poorer health than the general population, much of which is avoidable. This means that people with learning disabilities experience health inequalities, often starting early in life. The impact is serious. As well as having a poorer quality of life, people with learning disabilities die at a younger age than their non-disabled peers. There are five determinants of health inequalities 1:
- Greater risk of exposure to the social determinants of poorer health such as poverty, poor housing, unemployment, discrimination and isolation.
- Increased risk of health problems associated with specific genetic, biological and environmental causes of learning disabilities.
- Communication difficulties and reduced understanding of health issues. Personal health risks and behaviours such as poor diet and lack of exercise.
- Problems with access to healthcare provision.
Although health services have an important role to play, and need to do more to make their services accessible, many of the health issues that people with learning disabilities face are to do with social determinants of poorer health, and the support they receive regarding general health and wellbeing. Social care providers and support staff have an important role to play in promoting general health and wellbeing, and enabling access to primary health services. In order to support social care staff in this role the Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory (LDPHO: www.ihal.org.uk) has been working with the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG: www.vodg.org.uk/), the leading umbrella group of voluntary sector providers of social care services for adults, to develop guidance and a self-assessment exercise based on a charter.