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Better care needed for intellectually disabled

Media release 7 December 2007

Expert seeks better health care for people with intellectual disability

An Australian doctor and researcher, who is pushing for better health care for people with intellectual disabilities, is visiting Wellington next week for meetings at Parliament, with IHC and with health and disability experts.

Dr Nicholas Lennox is head of the Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability at the University of Queensland and is involved in research on the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities.

He has developed a programme in Australia to help meet these needs. The Comprehensive Health Assessment Programme (CHAP) is a two-part health questionnaire – one part filled out by the person with an intellectual disability with their family and supporters, the second part filled out by their GP. The programme has been adopted by most state governments and many non-government organisations across Australia and overseas.

Dr Lennox has also been involved in the development of the ASK (Advocacy Skills Kit) diary – a five-year health diary containing personal histories and medical records, health tips for the diary owners and information for their GP.

IHC is investigating the possibility of introducing both the CHAP programme and the ASK diary in New Zealand. Dr Lennox is to meet Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson on Monday 10 December, and National Disability Issues spokesperson Dr Paul Hutchison, IHC and Ministry of Health officials later in the week.

IHC General Manager of Specialist Services Wendy Rhodes says people with intellectual disabilities have lower life expectancy and a greater number of health problems than the general population.

"These health conditions are not always recognised or inadequately managed.

"There needs to be an annual, fully funded extended medical consultation and physical examination of each person with an intellectual disability. This will promote better diagnosis, treatment and preventative healthcare," she says.

The most recent Disability Survey shows there are about 50,000 New Zealanders with an intellectual disability. The Ministry of Health funds residential support services for approximately 6000 adults with intellectual disability.

"People with intellectual disability need help to get access to health care and evidence shows that a comprehensive annual health check is essential to identify health conditions and determine appropriate treatment," Wendy Rhodes says.

"In Australia and various parts of the United Kingdom their governments are funding an annual health check by their GP."


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