Texas A&M professor awarded grant to improve health equity for Texans with developmental disabilities
The project will empower and support underserved families of people with developmental disabilities in the university’s home region of Central Texas
Texas A&M University
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) has awarded Texas A&M University Professsor Dr. Lei-Shih Chen a nearly $1 million grant as part of its Health Equity for People with Developmental Disabilities project.
Developmental disabilities (DD) are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. Examples of DD include autism, brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, intellectual disability and spina bifida.
In her grant proposal, Chen noted that the Brazos Valley region of Central Texas is a high-poverty, medically underserved area for families with individuals with DD. Chen’s project aims to develop a comprehensive, evidenced-based, theory-grounded bilingual (English and Spanish) training and support program focusing on improving health equity among individuals with DD and their caregivers/parents in the region.
Chen, an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, plans to include 624 individuals with DD as well as their caregivers/parents from the Brazos Valley in her project, and will develop a resource-rich bilingual (English and Spanish) website to serve the families.
“As a parent of a child with DD, I have encountered many challenges,” Chen said. “My son inspired me to write this proposal to help myself and other families that have individuals with DD.”
Chen noted she anticipates that the participants in the training program will accomplish four things: they will utilize available community/state/federal resources; they will effectively use their patient rights; they will evaluate their health care providers; and they will advocate for themselves (and children with DD) with health care providers at significantly higher rates than before completion of the program.
As a result, the project has the potential to promote greater health equity among the community with DD in the Brazos Valley.
Chen received her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and her master’s degree in occupational medicine and industrial hygiene, both from National Taiwan University, and her doctorate in health education from Texas A&M. Her research interests include Autism Spectrum Disorder, cancer prevention and control, health disparities, and public health genomics.
The TCDD helps people with developmental disabilities achieve their potential for independence, productivity and integration into their communities through the development of a comprehensive system of services and supports. TCDD is one of 56 state councils on developmental disabilities in the United States and its territories created through the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act.
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