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How to Reach People with Disabilities about Influenza

January 25, 2010

Informational materials and messages about H1N1 influenza could reach a larger audience if they were offered in alternative formats—meaning tailored to reach people with disabilities. This includes information on prevention, symptom identification, and caring for those who have contracted the flu.

Some examples of alternative formats for print and Web materials include: pictures or writing at or below eighth grade level; audio recordings describing content and messaging; larger font sizes; and captions beside pictures or presentations. These alternative formats would help to make the materials and messages more accessible to a greater number of people in the disability community.

How H1N1 Can Affect People with Disabilities Differently

Disabilities can affect a person physically, mentally, or both. They can often be accompanied by secondary health conditions that affect a person’s ability to fully function within his or her environment, including their ability to recover from potential flu-related complications.  

Some physical disabilities might decrease how well a person’s immune system functions thereby increasing his or her risk for contracting more severe illnesses, such as pneumonia. In addition, some people living with intellectual disabilities might have difficulty in understanding and implementing the prevention strategies. 

Although people with all types of disabilities should be remembered when working with and planning for H1N1 influenza, those with limited mobility, difficulty understanding or practicing preventative measures, those not able to communicate their symptoms, and/or those not able to be closely monitored for symptoms could be at a higher risk for contracting the flu or experiencing unrecognized symptoms.

Tailoring More Effective Ways of Communicating

NACCHO is a member of the Advisory Council to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) H1N1 Disability Team. The purpose of this Advisory Council is to actively provide input and ongoing feedback to CDC on the needs of people with impairments and disabilities relative to the H1N1 pandemic; and to assist in planning for dissemination of information on H1N1 to people with impairments and disabilities, family members, advocates, serving organizations, and policy makers. 

The Advisory Council is currently in the processes of reviewing and providing input to CDC on the following H1N1 Web sites:
  1. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5810.pdf
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/groups.htm

The Advisory Council plans to convene on a monthly basis. Please stay tuned, in the coming months, for additional information.


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