Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD): Best Buddies Health


ADMINISTERING ORGANIZATION: Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD)

CONTACT: Dr. David O’Hara, 914-493-8316



FUNDING SOURCE: Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD)
POPULATION SERVED: Young adults with developmental disabilities (mild to moderate mental retardation) who attend the clinic at WIHD.
SERVICE TYPE: Transportation and personal escort to two medical appointments per year.

This program links medical and graduate students in the healthcare field with young adults with developmental disabilities who share similar interests and health care goals. Currently, these participants are young adults who are overweight, and attend the clinic at WIHD to get weighed and measured, where they receive information on nutrition, exercise, and other aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Together with their “best buddy”, they participate in activities that promote health and wellness, such as sports, exercise, food shopping, good eating, and any other activities that provide the opportunity to make healthy lifestyle choices. Student volunteers are matched on a one-to-one basis with an adult who has a developmental disability whom they contact weekly by phone, e-mail, or postal mail. Buddy matches are made based on similar interests as expressed on interest inventories completed by both volunteers and participants. Buddies get together at least two to three times a month for an activity that promotes good health. Volunteers are asked to keep a log of their contacts as well as a diary describing their activities and any concerns they may have. In addition, student volunteers meet monthly with the Medical Director of Adult Health Care at WIHD and the Best Buddies coordinator during which time they share experiences, discuss any issues that arise, and learn about health and wellness as well as developmental disabilities. Occasionally, outside speakers are invited to present relevant topics at these meetings, and student volunteers provide input as to the topics to be discussed. There are two goals for this program: to improve the health and well-being of the participants and to help the medical and health care students to understand health and wellness issues as well as learn about developmental disabilities. In addition, the program seeks to promote change in the attitudes of those in the health care field towards people with disabilities. In addition to the activities described above, during this second year, the volunteers will accompany their “best buddies” to at least two medical appointments a year. In preparation for this, there will be training sessions to prepare for the appointments so the developmentally disabled person will know what to expect.