Disability Research and Dissemination Center (DRDC) Launched

The Disability Research and Dissemination Center (DRDC) funds research relating to birth defects, disabilities, human development and blood disorders. The center also fosters training for health and public health professionals through fellowships, disseminates research results and utilizes strategic dissemination methods to solicit fellowships and research applicants. The DRDC was established in October 2012 through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD).

The three principal investigators are Suzanne McDermott, PhD, professor of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of South Carolina School of Medicine; Margaret A. Turk, MD, professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pediatrics at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University; and Roberta Carlin, MS, JD, executive director, AAHD.

The center is an alliance among three sites. The University of South Carolina School of Medicine houses the administration and research cores; the State University of New York Upstate Medical University (SUNY Upstate) constitutes the training and evaluation cores; and AAHD manages the dissemination core. DRDC’s advisory board and partners include prominent organizations and networks, and the center has the potential to bring in $28 million in funding for disability research over the next five years.

DRDC supports a broad complement of scientists throughout the U.S. whose research will advance knowledge of birth defects, disability, health and prevention. The research ranges from theoretical to applied, and includes numerous interdisciplinary teams and collaborations across specialties and professions. Dissemination will promote training and research opportunities, and circulate new knowledge and information through web and other multiple media approaches.

Year one research project funded

The DRDC’s first research project is “Disability and Health: Predictors of Onset of Common Health Conditions and Receipt of Preventive Services Among Adults with Disabilities.” This research will identify disparities in preventive health services for people who are blind, have spinal cord injuries or have intellectual disabilities. The PI is Suzanne McDermott.

Project description and objectives

The research sets out to answer the following questions:

  1. What factors are associated with timely receipt of recommended age- and gender-specific preventive health services for three groups of adults: (1) those with intellectual disability, (2) those with spinal cord injuries and (3) those who are blind?
  2. Are there differences in the prevalence and age at onset of common health conditions for the three groups?
  3. What are predictors of the onset of complications of diabetes mellitus and the quality of tertiary preventive care related to diabetes among adults with disabilities who have diabetes?

The research will answer these questions using two levels of data: (1) data from the National Health Interview Survey and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and (2) South Carolina Medicaid, Medicare and administrative data from an array of agencies.

The comparison group will be adults who received a service but did not have any of the case disabilities, who will be strata matched for age (in five-year intervals) and gender. This dataset will contain other possible factors associated with timely receipt of services including race/ethnicity, urban/rural county, residence (apartment, home, group setting), support services (day program, employment services), severity of disability (using available classifications), utilization of disability services and co-existing conditions.

Research plan and project activities

There are two arms to this study. The first arm (national study) uses a cross-sectional design to focus on health and medical services for a nationally representative sample of adults with disabilities using linked data from the National Health Interview Survey and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. After studying predictors of disability, the study focuses on people with intellectual disability, spinal cord injury and people who are blind compared to a group without a disability. The second study (South Carolina Study) approach will use 10 years of data in a retrospective cohort design from Medicare and Medicaid, and administrative data from numerous agencies to conduct studies of people with the three case disabilities.

Upcoming fellowship/research opportunities

The 2013 fellowship opportunity involves the NCBDDD’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program, which supports early recognition of developmental delay and disability. There are three components to the fellowship: a health communication campaign, initiatives to promote local collaborations, and research and evaluation to build capacity and overcome barriers to systems. The application for fellowships was due March 4, 2013, and the fellowship recipient will be announced in late spring 2013.

Four individual research opportunities are available through RFAs that were developed in collaboration with NCBDDD. The four areas of funding are: child mental health, early identification of developmental delay, outcomes for children with hearing loss and improving screening for hearing loss in WIC programs. The deadline for RFA submissions is March 15, 2013. The research projects are entitled:

Please visit www.disabilityresearchcenter.com to learn more about DRDC initiatives and future fellowship and research opportunities.