“The number one issue is lack of training to support healthy lifestyles [for individuals with MR] across the lifespan.”
The challenges and rewards of treating individuals with MR are rarely addressed in the training of physicians and other health care professionals. However, anecdotal evidence and limited data indicate that opportunities for clinical experiences with these patients, early in medical and other health professions training, increase the capacity of providers to value and accept these patients into their practices.
- Professional education: Integrate didactic and clinical training in health care of individuals with MR into the basic and specialized education and training of all health care providers.
Potential strategies: Evaluate existing health professions training curricula that address health and MR and disseminate those found to be efficacious. Partner with families and individuals with MR to develop and implement training modules. Use providers experienced in the care of individuals with MR and family members to mentor health professions students, residents, and fellows in the care of this population. Develop and implement criteria for accreditation and certification of health professions schools and training programs, based on inclusion of mental retardation in their curricula.
Potential curriculum topics: Dual diagnosis; health risks and expression, in people with MR, of age-related conditions found in other populations; direct interactions with these patients, such as history-taking, including cultural practices, diagnosis, treatment, and counseling and supporting individuals in wellness and in adherence to treatment regimens; appropriate use of medications and alternative behavior management techniques; working with individuals and their families to develop and update goal-oriented health care plans, including lifetime plans and plans for transition points; and use of augmentative communications devices and other specialized equipment.
- Interdisciplinary education and training: Support development and dissemination of effective training modules in interdisciplinary practice. Design modules to include social workers, family members, individuals with MR, and others, when relevant, such as teachers, personal care attendants, job counselors, and frontline office staff.
- Provider competence: Develop methods of evaluating and improving health provider competence in the health care of individuals with MR. These methods should be based on appropriate standards of care, including care that reflects understanding and respect for diverse cultures, and should be used to evaluate the competence of students and practicing providers, and to provide feedback and reevaluation of their performance.
- Continuing education: Develop, evaluate, and disseminate continuing education curricula for health care providers at all levels of practice in the care of individuals with MR. Such curricula should be based on appropriate standards of care and include training opportunities that reflect understanding and respect for diverse cultures.