University of Delaware

CDS receives $900,000 grant

Center for Disabilities Studies receives grant to address health disparities


11:09 a.m., July 27, 2012--The University of Delaware Center for Disabilities (CDS) has received a $900,000 grant to continue its Healthy Delawareans with Disabilities (HDWD) project over the next three years. The grant, titled "Improving the Health of People with Disabilities Through State-Based Public Health Programs," will develop and strengthen health-related disability programs in Delaware.

The grant was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Delaware is one of 18 states receiving this funding, effective July 1, to promote health, prevent chronic disease and increase the quality of life among people with disabilities. 

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“This funding allows us to continue our efforts, in partnership with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), to monitor and improve service delivery and the health status of the disability population,” commented CDS Director Beth Mineo. 

Project staff will collaborate with DHSS leadership, its program staff and community partners to:

  • Reduce disparities in key health indicators, including obesity, physical activity, tobacco use and preventive screenings, and
  • Identify and reduce disparities in health care access for people with disabilities. 

Focus areas will be data collection and surveillance, health promotion, emergency preparedness planning and access to health care. 

HDWD has received funding from CDC since 2007 to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. The project has acted as a catalyst for systems change in order to make health and wellness services and programs more accessible and inclusive. 

While many Americans find quality health care to be costly, difficult to coordinate and confusing, individuals who have disabilities or a special health care need face additional barriers in accessing health care, according to the Institute of Medicine. These individuals may have difficulty entering a building, using a scale or x-ray machine, or obtaining information in a visual or auditory format they can use. 

These barriers contribute to the health disparities experienced by the approximately 187,000 Delawareans with disabilities, who represent 22.4 percent of the adult population. For example, of adults in Delaware with disabilities, 39.1 percent report being obese compared to 24.7 percent of adults without disabilities. Adults with disabilities are more likely to report being a current smoker (23.3 percent) than adults without disabilities (17.1 percent). Women with disabilities are less likely to have had a Pap test within the past three years (79.4 percent) than women without disabilities (83.1 percent). 

Eileen Sparling, project director for HDWD, highlights the importance of using a portion of the funding for the planned statewide public health needs assessment of the target population. “This assessment will provide the first comprehensive description of the target population relative to demographics, health disparities and barriers to receiving high-quality health care," she said. "We will integrate available health data, assessments of the environment in terms of accessibility, and community input to create a portrait of disability and health in Delaware.”

A three-year strategic plan will be developed to guide DHSS in creating inclusive policies, effective interventions and comprehensive surveillance.

The Center for Disabilities Studies is collaborating on this project with the University’s College of Health Sciences and the Delaware Education Research and Development Center. More information about the project can be found at

About the Center for Disabilities Studies

The Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware supports the well-being, inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities and their families. The mission of the center is to enhance the lives of individuals and families through education, prevention, service and research related to disabilities. 

CDS promotes independence and productivity so individuals and families can fully participate in the life of their communities in Delaware and beyond. For further information, visit or call 302-831-6974.

Article by Michele Sands

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