Leo’s Letter: Only Increasing Inclusion Will End Bias

Over 10 years, the Boston University School of Social Work and The Arc of Massachusetts partnered on health care research (published in Health and Social Work in November 2010) which reported that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities face health care disparities and inequities in four areas: access, knowledge, communication, and quality.

An article published by several authors in Health Affairs in February 2021 implies that not much has changed regarding access, knowledge, and quality.

The article reported on perceptions of people with disabilities among 714 practicing US physicians nationwide who participated in a survey.

Only 40.7% of those surveyed were confident about their ability to provide the same quality of care to persons with disabilities as those without disability.

But the statistic that stuck with me was this: 82.4% of those surveyed reported that “people with significant disability have worse quality of life than nondisabled people.”

During a pandemic, this perception can mean stopping care early or not providing care at all. It’s important to appreciate that this perception is one that may be shared by a significant portion of others in our society who may have important roles in policy, education, and other sectors.

Perceptions often founded in ignorance do result in inequity. We know better.

We need to appreciate the significant impact of these perceptions. Only increased inclusion will end bias.

Public education by itself will yield limited results. This is what the Operation House Call team has discovered as well. The personal experiences of medical and nursing students with individuals with disabilities and families result in the most profound changes in perception. Our work is far from done.

One Comment:

  1. I think this is very helpful to students that have no first hand knowledge on this.

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