Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
The American Association of Healthy and Disability was founded in response to a new national health and disability policy emerging in the 1980ís. In the mid-eighties, certain governmental and societal developments made a significant impact on creating a national disability health and wellness agenda.
The first development was the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted to close to guarantee civil rights for citizens with disabilities. Another turning point was the founding of the National Program for the Prevention of Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In addition to the National Program for the Prevention of Disabilities, two other developments reflected growing interest in preventing conditions that caused disability and chronic illness.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services, implemented a plan on a national scale for primary preventive care set forth in a plan called Healthy People 2000 and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report entitled "Disability in America" in 1991. The nineties 1980s and 1990s were certainl decades for changing the view of how we as a nation and various groups handled the disability life experience.
The Institute of Medicine soon after received a grant from the National Program for The Prevention of Disabilities at CDC to examine the current status of disability prevention in America. A blue-ribbon committee worked together for almost two years to assess programs and activities related to the prevention of disabling conditions. The report reaffirmed the national interest and concern for the prevention of primary and secondary disabilities in our nation.
Also, there was a growing movement interested in prevention of additional health complications and in health promotion and wellness for people with disabilities by many groups representing Americans with and without disabilities. Additionally, the expansion of the National Program for the Prevention of Disabilities, reinforced the necessity for the American Association on Health and Disability to promote wellness in the lives of people already experiencing disabilities, not just in doing studies to prevent disabilities.
In 2000, AAHD modified its mission. Its focus honed more clearly on prevention of additional health complications and secondary health conditions in people with disabilities. It also moved to support health promotion and wellness programs to help people with disabilities to attain and maintain optimal health. AAHD continues to support primary prevention strategies that will further assure optimal health in people with disabilities.
To date, no other national organization is specifically dedicated to quite the same goals as AAHD and is positioned as a national leader on such initiatives. Also unlike other organizations, AAHD continues to this day to support national, state and community initiatives to prevent additional health complications in people with disabilities and to promote health and wellness in people with disabilities.
In 2003 the organization developed Health and Disability News quarterly email newsletter. Later in 2007, AAHD launched its website, www.aahd.us, to highlight health promotion and wellness initiatives and research for people with disabilities.
In 2008, AAHD launched the Disability and Health Journal (DHJ), the first peer reviewed, scientific, scholarly and multidisciplinary journal highlighting health promotion and wellness for people with disabilities. Then, in 2009, AAHD created the AAHD Scholarship Program. The scholarship supports students with disabilities who are pursuing higher education, with a particular preference. given to students who want to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in such fields as public health, health promotion, disability studies, to include disability policy and disability research.
Scholarships are limited to under $1,000. The AAHD Board of Directors Scholarship Committee annually evaluates applicants and makes a decision in December of each calendar year.
AAHD also sponsors webinars on various topics of interest to professionals in the area of disability and health, as well as features online publications and manuals listing cultural competency resources and organizations across the United States. Also on the website, there are a variety of formal health promotion interventions that state organizations and others have developed in the area of health promotion and wellness for people with disabilities on a variety of topics. The list of recognized health promotion interventions are programs that have been implemented and evaluated in numerous settings, from community-based settings to small group home and larger institution and hospital settings, depending on the topic.
AAHD further encourages partnerships with government agencies, state public health departments, universities, non profit organizations, and corporations to accomplish their mission of advancing health promotion and wellness interventions for people with disabilities.
Individuals and organizations can join AAHD and attend an annual conference that highlights different keynote topics. AAHD is a membership organization comprised of consumers, researchers, health care professionals, policy advocates, educators and interested members of the general public.
As an AAHD member, the benefits include many benefits. The benefits are a quarterly Disability and Health Journal subscription, participation opportunities in AAHD-sponsored conferences and educational symposiums, webinars and list serves, an electronic ewsletter subscription to Disability and Health, further 20% discounts on AAHD publications and conferences, disability and health research updates, current updates on public awareness and education campaigns, the opportunity to participate in AAHD committees, eligibility for discounts at Drexel University, an online-campus, and the benefit of representation on Capitol Hill and with federal agencies and coalitions whose focus it is to advocate for better health and wellness promotion among people with disabilities.