Issues Brief for
State and Local Health Officials—Disabilities

Dr. Philip Lee, DHHS Assistant Secretary for Health chaired the first Healthy People 2000 Progress Review on the Health of People with Disabilities on January 23 in Washington, D.C. Perspectives on disability were given by Dr. Katherine Seelman, Director, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Department of Education, by Dr. Robyn Stone, Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging, DHHS Administration on Aging, and by Michele Adler, Disability Policy Analyst, DHHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (OASPE). An agenda for the Progress Review and a list of participating organizations are attached. The review highlighted the first-ever survey that presents comprehensive data on the health of people who have disabilities.

The 1994 National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS-D) is the largest nationally representative survey on disability since the 1970s (see attached description and list of co-sponsoring agencies). The NHIS-D was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which obtained data through interviews with 225,000 randomly selected Americans and then through follow-up interviews with about 35,000 persons who indicated a disability.

According to OASPE's analysis, preliminary NHIS-D data on people of all ages showed that in 1994:

A total of 59.4 million Americans--about 23 percent of the population--had at least one of these kinds of disability, Adler said.

Limiting this total to functionally disabled people, with or without long-term care needs, over 47 million--about one in every five or six Americans--are disabled. Two-thirds of those with functional disabilities and nearly half of those with long-term care needs are under the age of 65. Altogether, 6.1 million children, 25.7 million adults aged 18-64, and 15.8 million people aged 65 and over have a functional disability. The results of further analyses will be published later by OASPE and NCHS.

The attached maps, based on the 1990 Decennial Census, indicate the percentage of the population with an ADL or IADL. ADLs and IADLs are limitations in the ability to carry out Activities of Daily Living (e.g., bathing, dressing, eating) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (e.g., preparing meals, doing housework, shopping.)

Preliminary data presented at the Progress Review showed improvements in some areas. The incidence of two leading causes of disability--non-fatal head injuries and non-fatal spinal cord injuries--has decreased since the 1980s. However, the incidence or prevalence of several other illnesses and conditions which can contribute to disability has risen during the same period. These include fetal alcohol syndrome, overweight, visual impairment, asthma, and certain complications of diabetes. Among some minorities and age groups, there is an even stronger trend away from the Healthy People 2000 targets for these conditions.

Healthy People 2000 is a national initiative through which the U.S. Public Health Service tracks and reports on the health status of Americans based on a consensus set of national objectives with year 2000 targets. Through this framework, DHHS collaborates with the Department of Education, the States, and private sector organizations to improve the health of all Americans.

For additional information, contact Michele Adler, OASPE/DHHS @ (202) 690-6712.

Attachments [not available]

HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000 main page | Healthy People 2000 Midcourse Review and 1995 Revisions | NHIC | ODPHP