Health Disparities Persist Among People with Disabilities
Smoking prevalence among people with disabilities is nearly 50 percent higher than among people without disabilities (29.9 percent vs. 19.8 percent), according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Preventing Chronic Disease. The study found that in 2004, smoking prevalence for people with disabilities is highest in Delaware (39.4 percent) and lowest in Puerto Rico (16.5 percent).
The study found that about 70 percent of people with disabilities who smoke and had visited a doctor in the last year had been advised to quit smoking. However, more than 40 percent of those advised to quit reported not being told about the types of tobacco-cessation treatment available.
“About 50 million Americans are living with a disability and most Americans will experience a disability some time during the course of their lives,” said Dr. Edwin Trevathan, director of CDC′s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “The release of these findings during Disability Awareness Month reminds us that disparities persist in the health and health care of people with disabilities.”
People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of dying prematurely. Benefits are greater for people who stop at earlier ages, but cessation is beneficial at all ages. Smoking cessation lowers the risk for lung and other types of cancer. The risk for developing cancer declines with the number of years of smoking cessation.
Quitting smoking is the most important step smokers can take to improve their overall health and reduce their risk for disease. Approximately 10 percent of smokers have a smoking-related chronic disease, primarily heart disease or emphysema. Smokers who quit will, on average, live longer and have fewer years living with disability.
Disparities in smoking prevalence, in addition to barriers to the use of preventive services (such as traveling to a doctor′s appointment) put people with disabilities at risk for declining health. Researchers are unsure why the smoking prevalence is higher in people with disabilities, but it is an area for further examination. However, research confirms that people with disabilities are less likely than people without disabilities to receive preventive health care and therefore are more subject to illness and disease. As per the 2005 Surgeon General′s Call to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities, the resulting higher health care expenditure costs and productivity losses for people with disabilities, which exceeds $300 billion, can be understood as a result of too little attention to the other health needs of these individuals by health providers.
This data were collected from the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the two U.S. territories for which data were available?Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The BRFSS is an ongoing, state-based, random-digit-dialed telephone survey of the civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population aged 18 years or older. It is designed to collect information on demographics, health status, behavioral health risk factors and preventive health behaviors.
The 2004 BRFSS questionnaire included two questions on disability screening: “Are you limited in any way in any activities because of physical, mental, or emotional problems?” and “Do you now have any health problem that requires you to use special equipment, such as a cane, a wheelchair, a special bed, or a special telephone?” Respondents were defined as having a disability if they answered yes to either of these questions.
People with and without disabilities who smoke can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) (TTY 1-800-332-8615) or visit www.smokefree.gov for quitting assistance. The toll-free number is a single access point to the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines. Callers are automatically routed to their state′s quitline services.