Training of Health Professionals

The lack of training of health care providers in caring for people with intellectual disabilities are chief reasons for the health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities.1,2

In a survey exploring the training of health care professionals, more than 80% of U.S. medical school students report receiving no clinical training regarding people with intellectual disabilities; 66% report not receiving enough classroom instruction on intellectual disabilities.4 More than 50% of medical and dental school deans report that graduates of their programs are simply “not competent” to treat people with intellectual disabilities and more than half of students agree.4 Additionally, 50% of U.S. medical and dental school deans reported that clinical training to treat people with intellectual disabilities is not a high priority with most citing “lack of curriculum time” as the primary reason.4

Even though they report a lack of instruction, approximately 75% of students express interest in treating people with intellectual disabilities as part of their careers if given the opportunity.4 Meanwhile, almost all administrators say they would implement a curriculum regarding treatment of people with intellectual disabilities if given one.4


1. Krahn G, Hammond L, Turner A. A Cascade of Disparities: Health and Health Care Access for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities research Reviews 2006;12:70-82.

2. Bainbridge D. The Antecedents and Impacts of Participation in Special Olympics Healthy Athletes on the Perceptions and Professional Practice of Health Care Professionals: A Preliminary Investigation.

3. Harris J. Intellectual disability: understanding its development, causes, classification, evaluation, and treatment. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2006.

4. Corbin S., Holder M., Engstrom K. Changing Attitudes, Changing the World: The Health and Health Care of People with Intellectual Disabilities, Washington, DC: Special Olympics International; 2005.

5. Hoder M., Waldman H., Hoed H. Preparing Health Professionals to Provide Care to Individuals with Disabilities. International Journal of Oral Science.1(2):66-71;2009.