A Unique Healthy Experience for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Anyone who reads newspapers, watches television, reads the magazine covers in the check- out lines of grocery stores or just looks around each day knows all about it: despite doctors’ warnings and a national push from the White House itself to promote healthy eating and lifestyles, there is an epidemic of obesity in this country. It’s worse in some places; in fact, Georgia is in the top three states with rising obesity rates across our population. Whether it’s a priority in our lives or not, most of us know the things we should be doing to stay healthy.
For some of us, healthy habits are even more important. Adults with developmental disabilities have an especially high risk of developing secondary disabilities due to preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases or avoidable conditions such as a fall.
JF&CS’ Health Power Initiative (HPI) program aims to prevent secondary disabilities and avoid accidents among clients with developmental disabilities. Funded by the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the HPI is a multidisciplinary approach to helping TFI clients and their families lead healthy lives.
A team-based approach
The HPI focuses on both physical and mental health and not just healthy eating. In addition to TFI professionals, the program team includes a registered dietitian, licensed clinician and community integration specialist. The program includes monthly educational workshops as well as healthy activities for people to do on their own. These activities are open to all individuals who are enrolled in TFI, their families and their staff. In addition, the team will find free or reduced-cost opportunities to support health, such as gym memberships, and incentives such as movie tickets and grocery store coupons to motivate and reward change. Community opportunities and incentives will be obtained through efforts of the team’s community integration specialist.
For those at particularly high risk based on medical or behavioral factors determined in collaboration with the HPI nurse, HPI offers intense intervention. Someone who has diabetes, for example, or uncontrolled hypertension is considered eligible. Those who fall into this group complete a nutrition assessment and then receive an intervention specific to each person. The dietitian works one on one with the individuals, their families and their staff person on meal plans and recipes, and the licensed professional counselor supports implementation of the strategy and behavioral change.