November 1, 2014

Iowans with disabilities to see boost from federal grant

State health officials have landed a large federal grant to help improve the lives of people with disabilities. The $900,000 CDC grant will focus on reducing health disparities for Iowans with disabilities in a host of ways.

Lonnie Cleland, a program director at the Iowa Department of Public Health, says more than one in ten Iowans have a disability.

Cleland says, “We ultimately want to be able to include people with disabilities in Iowa in local public health promotion activities and then identify sources of financial assistance to help lower-income people get access to services.”

That assistance could include things like housing, building an access ramp or getting a health issue diagnosed. He says the goal of the grant is to promote and maximize health, prevent chronic disease, and increase the quality of life for Iowans with disabilities.

“What we want to do with this grant is get folks at the table who can write disabilities into their policies,” Cleland says. “It could be ramps. It could be falls prevention. It could be brain injury groups. It could be any sort of disability groups.”

More than 336,000 Iowans have some kind of disability which is more than 11% of the population. For Iowans over 65 years of age, more than 33% have a disability. Cleland says most people don’t realize how many Iowans have a handicap.

“We may see that the parking space for the disabled is empty at QuikTrip and so we wonder, ‘Well, who uses that? Do they really need that?’ Yes, they do need that. There’s a greater proportion of the population than we readily think of.”

About 38% of people with disabilities rank their health as fair-to-poor compared to just 6% of those without disabilities.

Iowa is among 18 states getting the grants. The state health department will work with local public health agencies and the University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development to target health disparities for Iowans with disabilities.

Access to spiritual, recreational, community and civic activities will also be targeted. The grant will also promote personal emergency preparedness planning for individuals and family caregivers of those with disabilities.