Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New handbook to help people with a learning disability make health choices

Turning Point has launched a new health and wellbeing handbook, with easy read versions aimed at empowering people with learning disabilities to make informed choices about their health.

The handbook contains information and practical tips on healthy lifestyles to staying safe, emotional health, physical health, sexual health, and relationships. 

The resource, which is available as a hard copy as well as digital version, has been developed collaboratively with colleagues from across Turning Point, bringing together expertise in the areas of drugs, alcohol, mental health, sexual health, healthy lifestyles and learning disability to develop a tool which can be used across services.  

It is also being used as a resource to support the health action plan, which is a personal plan, developed by the person with a learning disability with their practitioner to stay healthy. 

Whilst the health action plan has an official annual review between practitioner and client, Turning Point support staff have a monthly review with service users to give them short-term goals related to their health and wellbeing. These goals are often set by look through and discussing information provided in the Health and Wellbeing handbook. 

The staff encourage me to talk about my health

Christine Baldwin, a client at Turning Point’s learning disability service in Bradford, has been using the handbook to understand her own health and wellbeing. She said: “I think it’s good. If people can’t read, it will be more suitable for them because of the pictures. If they want to find out more, staff can help. It gives good talking points about my health. The staff encourage me to talk about my health, learn about what is going right and what might not be going so well. I can use the handbook and the staff’s advice to work on improving my health and wellbeing.” 

People with a learning disability have poorer physical and mental health than people without a learning disability and they die significantly earlier than the general population, from preventable causes of death, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The life expectancy of women with a learning disability is 27 years less than the average population. For men with a learning disability, it’s 23 years less. Many people with a learning disability have a lifestyle which isn’t as healthy as it could be, added NICE. 

Davinder Jhuty, Turning Point National Head of Service – Learning Disability, added: “People with a learning disability often have limited access to health information, compromised by communication difficulties, the methods used to share information and lack of reasonable adjustments and understanding by health service providers. Being proactive at promoting good health, recognising and preventing ill health and disease can increase the life chances and quality of life of individuals. 

“But to do this we must support people to lead the healthiest and most enriching lives they can, ensuring people are able to make informed choices about their health and wellbeing, have access to the services they need and they feel comfortable to take advantage of those services and support. Using the handbook, we hope to empower the people we support across all settings.” 

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