Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Need for Health Promotion for Adults Who Are Visually Impaired

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Need for Health Promotion for Adults Who Are Visually Impaired

Article excerpt

Abstract: Health promotion interventions for adults who are visually impaired have received little attention. This article reports what is currently known about the health, overweight and obesity, and levels of physical activity reported by these adults. Conclusions about the need for health promotion activities based on this information are provided, and suggestions for implementing these activities or interventions are offered.


Adults who are visually impaired (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) are substantially more likely to report poor, fair, or worsening health than are adults who are sighted (Capella-McDonnall, 2005; Tielsch, Sommer, Katz, Quigley, & Ezrine, 1991; Wang, Mitchell, & Smith, 2000). Two conditions that may contribute to this reported inferior health are being overweight or obese and not being physically active. In this article, I first present a literature review on the problems of overweight and obesity and the lack of physical activity in the general population and what is known in these areas that specifically addressed persons with disabilities, including persons who are visually impaired. I then report on past interventions and the new focus on health promotion for persons with disabilities. Finally, I discuss ways in which health promotion activities or interventions can be implemented with adults who are blind or have low vision. In this article, I use the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF; World Health Organization, WHO, 2001) as a conceptual framework to help explain the need for health promotion activities with adults who are visually impaired and present the potential outcomes of such activities.

The problems

Tar OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY EPIDEMIC The incidence of overweight and obesity has increased at an alarming rate in recent years in the United States, as well as throughout the world. The rate of increase has been so significant that this is now considered one of the most important public health problems of our time (Simons-Morton, Obarzanek, & Cutler, 2006). The body mass index (BMI), which is measured as a person's weight in kilograms divided by a person's height in meters squared, is traditionally used to determine overweight (BMI equal to or greater than 25) and obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 30). The prevalence of obesity among adults in the United States remained relatively stable at approximately 13%-15% from 1960 to 1974, but increased substantially to 22.9% from 1988 to 1994 and increased significantly again to 30.4% from 1999 to 2002 (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, & Johnson, 2002; Hedley et al., 2004). An additional 34.7% of the U.S. population was overweight from 1999 to 2002, bringing the total percentage of the population who are overweight or obese to 65.1% (Hedley et al., 2004)--a significant increase over the 55.9% reported from 1988 to 1994 (Flegal et al., 2002). Data from the Framingham Heart Study, a community-based prospective cohort study, indicate that the long-term estimated risks for overweight and obesity in the population are extremely high, with more than 8 in 10 Americans expected to be overweight and 1 in 2 expected to be obese (Vasan, Pencina, Cobain, Freiberg, & D'Agostino, 2005).

There is considerable evidence that the rates of overweight and obesity are higher among persons with disabilities than among the general population. In a study that used data from the 1998 and 1999 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for eight states and the District of Columbia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2002) reported that persons with disabilities had substantially higher rates of obesity than did those without disabilities (27.4% versus 16.5%). Using data from the 1994-95 National Health Interview Survey, Well et al. (2002) also found that persons with disabilities were significantly more likely to be obese than were persons without disabilities. …

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