Current health literacy programs for people with disabilities lack clear operational definitions, rely on inconsistent health literacy statistics, and tend to follow a medical model approach that often fallaciously assumes people with disabilities have limited health knowledge. The central issue in addressing and improving health literacy among people with disabilities is to focus on clear and effective health communication among health care team members, including people with disabilities, which can ultimately improve this population’s health outcomes. Our proposed teamwork model builds upon the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) biopsychosocial model, decision-making theory, and health care teamwork training to improve health communication and ultimately health outcomes for people with disabilities.

Key Take Away Points

  • We propose strategies for improving health literacy among people with disabilities and health communications by providers.
  • The World Health Organization’s ICF biopsychosocial model and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's TeamSTEPPS program can promote health communication among all members of the health care team.
  • The patient is a central decision maker on the health care team.

Author Biography

David Hollar, PhD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Health Administration at Pfeiffer University. He received his PhD in Curriculum and Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was awarded the graduate school’s Outstanding Dissertation Award. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology. He successfully completed postdoctoral research in community health at the NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Substance Abuse and Employment at Wright State University. He also has a Graduate Certificate in Public Health Entrepreneurship. His specialties include multivariate statistics, structural equation models, mathematical models, disability policy, and decision-making. He has numerous peer-reviewed publications on health risk factors, allostatic load, behavioral genetics, and disability policy. He edited and coauthored the Handbook of Children with Special Health Care Needs and Epigenetics, the Environment, and Children’s Health Across Lifespans, both published by Springer in 2012 and 2016, respectively. He serves on the editorial board of the Maternal and Child Health Journal, he is a member of the American Public Health Association and the American Association on Health and Disability, and he volunteers with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Jennifer Rowland, PhD, MPH, MS, PT, is Director of the Center for Public Service and Family Strengths at the University of Houston-Downtown. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Rowland has held previous faculty positions as Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her PhD and MPH degrees from the University of Kansas, and her MS in Physical Therapy at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Dr. Rowland’s research and teaching interests have included health promotion and secondary condition prevention for people with mobility disabilities.