12 June 2013

A researcher from The University of Queensland presented at an ethical meeting for the Pope to persuade governments to provide substantial resources to improve the health and wellbeing of people with an intellectual disability.

Professor Nicholas Lennox, Director of UQ’s Centre for Intellectual & Developmental Disability had been invited to present his paper ‘Promoting Well-Being in Persons with Intellectual and Development Disabilities’ at the 6th International Colloquium of the International Association of Catholic Bioethicists (IACB) in Italy from 9-14 June.

Professor Lennox said access to high quality healthcare remains a significant challenge for people with an intellectual and development disability (IDD) and their families.

“Beyond attitudinal and access barriers to healthcare, are the challenges around clinicians gathering clear and accurate health information from the individual,” Professor Lennox said.

“For many people with IDD: recall, communication and speaking up for themselves about their mental or physical sensations or feelings is difficult and for some it is impossible.”

When writing his paper, parents and medical clinicians of people with IDD across Australia were asked for their view on whether people with IDD experience the right to be valued, the right to health, the right to high quality healthcare and the right to self-determination and inclusive decision making.

“They pointed to deficits in our current ways of addressing the health and health care needs of this group and perhaps unsurprisingly respondents agreed on most salient points,” he said.

“The current physical and mental wellbeing of people with IDD falls well short of the standard experienced by other members of the population, such that in truth none of these questions can be answered in the affirmative.

“People with intellectual disability confront profound devaluing from pre-conception to death.

“This is reflected in their health, healthcare and their ability to powerfully participate in actions to gain and maintain their wellbeing throughout life.”

Professor Lennox hopes that the Colloquium will use whatever mechanisms that are available to insist governments direct substantial resources to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of children, adolescence and adults with intellectual disability.

Professor Lennox has also been instrumental in development of the Developmental Disability Therapeutic Guidelines Book, performed the world’s three largest randomised controlled trial in people with intellectual disability for the Comprehensive Health Assessment Program (CHAP) and Ask health diary, and lead the writing of the health intervention segment of the recently released WHO World Report on Disability. In 2012 the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID) recognised his work and he was awarded the honorary title of ASID Fellow.

Media: Brian Mallon, Communication Officer, School of Medicine, 0403621109, 07 3365 5254 b.mallon@uq.edu.au