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Office on Disability

Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities

About the Call to Action

The Call to Action was designed to call attention to the need for:

  • The availability of health care and wellness services for persons with disabilities when and where they need them, provided by from health care and wellness service professionals who really listen to, communicate with and respect them. 
  • Americans to understand that a disabled person is more than his or her disability
  • Health care providers who treat those with a disability, have the insight to see and treat the whole person not just his or her disability
  • Educators willing to teach about disability; and

What is in the Call to Action?

  • The Call to Action is based on a simple principle:  Good health is necessary for persons with disabilities to secure the freedom to work, learn and engage in their families and communities.
  • It identifies the disparities in health and wellness services affecting persons with disabilities, suggesting ways to close gaps and to re-balance the equation.
  • It supports the goals of President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative, to enable nearly 54 million Americans of all ages who have disabilities to experience full, rewarding, healthy lives in their communities.
  • Consistent with other Surgeon General’s Calls to Action, this document’s emphasis is stimulating action based on science, and is supported by specific steps to achieve the goals of this Call to Action at the national, state and community levels.
  • The report is organized into four key sections that supply a public health approach framework to improve and enhance access to health care and wellness service needs for persons with disabilities:
    • Section 1 introduces the concept of disability; delineates the difference between disability and illness, and introduces the challenges to health care and wellness promotion services faced by persons with disability. 
    • Section 2 describes nature of disability, who persons with disabilities are, and the range of disabilities affecting persons across the lifespan. 
    • Section 3explores how achieving the goals can help promote health and wellness for persons with disabilities, exploring issues and challenges at the individual consumer provider, community, and larger system levels.
    • Section 4 delineates strategies for action that can lead to improved interaction, communication, and cooperation of  an integrated health care system and related services programs with persons with disabilities.
  • The volume includes real-life vignettes that highlight both the challenges to health and wellness faced by persons with disabilities and ways in which practice and policy can help overcome those challenges. 

Who is the Call to Action for?

  • The Call to Action is for many different audiences, all of whom can play a role in meeting the health and wellness challenges for persons with disabilities.
    • Health care providers, wellness and service professionals, service support systems and the programs that train and educate them
    • Community leaders and influencers in both the public and private sectors (including employers, administrators and policymakers)
    • Persons with disabilities, families and advocates for persons with disabilities
    • The Media and Entertainment Industries
    • The public
  • The Call to Action is just that.  It calls on every member of society to see persons with disabilities as equal counterparts, who can lead long, healthy, productive lives.   It calls on every member of society to play his or her part in getting the message out that, with good health, people with disabilities can work, learn and have long, active lives. And it calls on those working in health and wellness to play a key role in making that message a reality for 54 million persons in the US with disability.

Office on Disability
US Department of Health and Human Services