Disability Equity Measures

Posted On December 12, 2013
Categories CLHS, Events

ATLANTA – The Center for Law, Health & Society hosted Elizabeth Pendo J.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Saint Louis University School of Law on September 16, 2013.  Pendo presented “Disability Equity Measures: Collecting New Data to Address Disability Disparities in Health Care.” Faculty and students from the College of Law, Institute of Health Administration, and School of Public Health, as well as attorneys and others in the community attended the afternoon talk.
People with disabilities face multiple barriers to health care and report poorer health status than people without disabilities. Historically, however, they have not been the focus of federal initiatives to reduce health disparities.

Pendo gave a stark example of such disparities in access to health care for people with disabilities: “Research suggests that women who use wheelchairs do not have the same access to breast health care compared to other women,” she said.  “These women do not have mammograms at the same rate because there aren’t many facilities offering wheelchair accessible imaging machines.  With a regular imaging machine, women have to be able to stand and stand still for long enough to have the exam.  Manual exams are not as effective, and women who use wheelchairs may have to travel farther, incur additional expenses, and delay having the mammogram. These women may not be diagnosed early and have the benefit of earlier treatment.  Even once diagnosed, there is evidence that women that use wheelchairs are offered different treatment options for reasons that appear irrelevant to their disability.”

“National studies are needed to examine these types of disparities,” continued Pendo.  “For the first time at the federal level, the Affordable Care Act has provisions for including disability status as a demographic. However, the data collection needs to be developed correctly to ensure that it can be effectively used to guide the design of programs, services, and structural reforms to reduce disability-based disparities and increase the health and health care of people with disabilities.”

“The ACA’s provisions will hopefully allow the breakthrough needed to gather data appropriately, but the real sign of hope won’t be seen until the data are analyzed and implemented in a way to address some of the many of the unnecessary health care inequities faced by people with disabilities,” added Greg Tanner (J.D. ’16), secretary of the Student Health Law Association (SHLA), a co-sponsor of the event.

“Professor Pendo’s research is on the cutting edge of disability and access to health care,” said Charity Scott, center director.   Pendo and attendees engaged in lively discussion following the talk and enjoyed light refreshments at the conclusion of the program.

Stacie Kershner, JD
Associate Director
Center for Law, Health & Society
[email protected]