Future directions for intellectual disability health in Australia

An important new review lights the way toward improved health services for people with intellectual disability.

| 27 Mar 2024

We are at a ‘dynamic point’ in intellectual disability healthcare in Australia, according to a recent article by 3DN staff and other experts.

The government has created a National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability.

At the Disability Royal Commission, people with lived experience have told us how we can improve the health of people with intellectual disability.

A new National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health has been set up.

An Intellectual Disability Health Capability Framework is being created that sets out clear capabilities for health professionals and brings together resources to support the teaching of intellectual disability healthcare.

Taking stock and planning for the future

With all that is happening in intellectual disability health, now is a perfect time to take stock and plan for a better future.

What progress have we made in intellectual disability health? What challenges do we face? What should we focus on for the future?

Our researchers address these and other questions in their overview article, published in a special international perspectives edition of the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities.

The paper brings together a wide range of perspectives: authors include an advocate with lived experience of intellectual disability, clinicians, and researchers.

Key recommendations

The authors make five key recommendations for better training of health professionals to improve healthcare for people with intellectual disability. For example, they recommend that:

  • All health staff should receive mandatory training on how to treat and communicate with people with intellectual disability.
  • Training should be targeted to key ‘high use’ health areas such as general practice, emergency departments and psychiatry.

“Intellectual disability healthcare is at a dynamic point in Australia,” the authors say.

“It is imperative that advocates with intellectual disability, support people, researchers, and clinicians, continue to work together to ensure this momentum from policy to practice continues and makes a real difference to the health experiences and health outcomes of Australians with intellectual disability.”

Work already under way

3DN is already working toward the goals set out in the article. With partner organisations, government agencies and advocates: 

  • We have made an online learning platform for health professionals called Intellectual Disability Health Education, with courses to improve knowledge, skills and confidence of health professionals, disability professionals and carers.
  • We have made Intellectual Disability Mental Health Connect, with Easy Read and plain English information and resources about mental health.
  • We are part of the new National Centre of Excellence that will be a catalyst for action to ensure people with intellectual disability have improved access to quality, timely and comprehensive health care.
  • We are developing resource materials to support the Intellectual Disability Health Capability Framework for universities and other education providers. Find out more at our project page

Read the full article Intellectual disability healthcare in Australia: Progress, challenges, and future directions in the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities.

The article was written by experts from 3DN, Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability, and Mater Intellectual Disability and Autism Service.

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