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A primary care tool for comprehensive health assessments of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Almost all family physicians encounter adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) in their practices: at least one per cent of the population have IDDs; 15 people in a general practice of 1,500 patients. Family physicians are well-equipped by training and the nature of practices to provide care for this group. But they have identified challenges and expressed the need for support and tools to provide optimal care for this population.

IDDs are lifelong challenges, beginning in childhood, for learning and independent living. They may be caused by genetic syndromes (e.g., Down syndrome) and brain injuries. They may be associated with autism spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy. Many adults with IDDs do not have a specific associated diagnosis.

Adults with IDDs, as a group, experience poorer physical and mental health, higher rates of premature mortality, and more complex health issues compared to those without IDD. It is a matter of human rights and equity to provide accommodations to reduce the barriers people with IDDs face in access to health care.

Family physicians have identified challenges and expressed the need for support in providing care. To help address these issues, a practice tool has been revised by the CFPC’s Developmental Disabilities Member Interest Group in partnership with Surrey Place: the IDD Health Check. The tool is intended to be used proactively. It outlines a comprehensive health assessment, focused on preventive care and based on Canadian guidelines. It includes easily accessible practice tips to suggest questions to ask, ways to make examinations easier, and how to involve patients, caregivers, office staff, and consultants in a team approach. The tool can help family physicians be more efficient and effective in the care of their patients with IDDs.

There is good research and practice evidence for the benefit of comprehensive health checks for adults with IDDs. Canadian data suggest that the uptake of this recommendation can be improved. This tool will support family doctors and make it easier to provide an IDD Health Check for their patients.

To find out more about the Canadian guidelines for primary care of adults with IDDs and other practice tools, visit the Surrey Place Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program website.

Related Resources

Visit the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program at Surrey Place for more information about IDD and the development of the health check tool.

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