Living well with disability: needs, values and competing factors
Background Obesity is more prevalent for disabled people (estimated as being between 27-62%) compared to the general population (17-22%). Disabled people are more likely to report poorer general health and acquire a range of obesity-related secondary conditions. Although there are many physical activity and nutrition initiatives aimed at obesity prevention, little is known about whether these options are relevant and accessible for disabled people. The Living Well Study aimed to better understand the issues faced by disabled people when engaging in physical activity and healthy eating.
Methods The study drew on a participatory action research design involving key stakeholders. There were two core cyclical phases (A and B), in which data collection was followed by a period of analysis, reflection and refinement. Focus groups and interviews were held with individuals who experience a range of disabilities, family members, service providers and representatives from disability advocacy groups. We sought to explore the importance and meaning of physical activity and healthy eating and factors that influenced engagement in these. Data in phase A were analysed using conventional content analysis drawing on constant comparative methods to identify themes of importance. In phase B, data analysis occurred alongside data collection, using a structured template to summarise participants’ agreement or disagreement with the draft themes and recommendations, until the themes and recommendations were refined based on participants’ corroboration.
Results 146 participants aged between 10–69 years, from both rural and urban areas and of different cultural backgrounds participated. Seven interconnecting themes that related to engagement in living well behaviours emerged with a wide range of external factors (such as people, knowledge, time, cost, identity and the environment) impacting on living well options. The central theme - It depends: needs, values and competing factors - emphasised the complexity faced by a disabled person when balancing the external factors with their own personal values and needs in order to arrive at a decision to engage in healthy living behaviours.
Conclusions Although disabled people experience similar issues when participating in healthy living behaviours as those living without disability, additional factors need to be addressed in order to improve opportunities for ‘living well’ in these populations. This information has implications for health professionals to target the relevance and content of interventions.