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Houston, Texas

People discussing health of women with disabilities
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Health Promotion Campaign for Women with Disabilities

Funded by a grant from the Houston Endowment


More than 26 million women in the U.S. live with disability-related work limitations, comprising 20 percent of the population of women. In 1990, more than 50,000 women with mobility limitations lived in Houston. The mission of the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities at Baylor College of Medicine is to conduct research and educational activities toward improving the health of women with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, rheumatoid diseases, spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis. Our 12 years of research have documented substantial disparities in the health status of women with disabilities compared to women general. This is particularly evident in heart disease, the leading killer of U.S. women. Ten percent of the general population of women ages 45 to 64 has heart disease; however, one of our studies showed that for women with disabilities in the same age group there was a 23 percent rate of heart disease. We have also found significantly higher rates of hypertension, obesity, and diabetes among women with physical disabilities compared to women in general, as well as higher rates of smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet behaviors. CROWD is now actively engaged in developing and testing interventions that will help women with disabilities improve their attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors related to health and wellness. The proposed campaign will translate some of our major research findings into information and health promotion messages for women with physical disabilities and the general public.


To empower women with physical disabilities to improve their health and wellness.

Intended audiences

Women with physical disabilities and those who care about them.


1. Believe you are a woman of value.

One of the most devastating consequences of disability for many women is depression, along with low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. Our studies have shown that messages of empowerment and connection with other women with disabilities can significantly improve depression as well as indicators of physical health, such as improved vitality and reduced levels of pain.

2. Honor your body.

When a woman's body fits few medical or social norms, it is common for her to believe that there is little she can do to control her health. We encourage women with all levels of physical limitations to listen to their bodies and do the most they can to be physically active, follow a healthy diet, and prevent future health problems by avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use and getting regular checkups.

3. Defy the myths.

Many women have been indoctrinated with the myths that if you have a disability, you can't be physically active; you can't be a good wife or mother; you can't be employed; and you must follow the orders of those who know what's best for you. Our message is that women with disabilities should make their own decisions about their activities, roles, and future.

4. Be a common thread in the fabric of your community.

Social isolation is rampant among women with physical disabilities and is closely associated with depression, domestic violence, and poor levels of health. Our intervention studies have shown that women with disabilities who become more socially active and involved are also able to improve their general levels of health and functioning.

5. Demand answers.

We promote empowerment medicine; that is, partnership between a woman and her health care providers. By being informed about her own disability, extraordinary risk factors she may face, and the experiences of other women with disabilities, she can take proactive steps to receive the health care information and services she needs to maintain and enhance her health.

Topics of focus

This campaign will focus on communicating CROWD's research findings and delivering health-promoting messages related to women with disabilities and:

1. Physical activity

2 Weight management

3. Smoking cessation

4. Depression

5. Stress

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