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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

June 6, 2000 Contact: Jody Oesterreicher (312) 996-8277; joest@uic.edu


The University of Illinois at Chicago's National Center on Physical Activity and Disability has launched a free Web site with information on how to combine physical activity with every type of disability. The information on the site can be customized by users based on their personal needs and is linked to a companion call center. The Web site address is http://www.ncpad.org

The center, founded in spring 1999, resides in the department of disability and human development in the UIC College of Health and Human Development Sciences. It is funded through a $3 million, four-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health, Disability and Health Branch.

"Our goal is to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and reduce the occurrence of secondary conditions that often arise from physical inactivity," said James Rimmer, UIC associate professor and director of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability. "Anyone who leads a physically active lifestyle will tell you it's a fundamental aspect to good health, right up there with breathing. The same is true for people with disabilities, but sadly, the physical activity profile of most persons with disabilities is very low."

People with disabilities, family members, health professionals, researchers and other interested individuals may use the new Web site in many ways, for example:

  • A person with osteoporosis can get expert advice on how to maintain and increase bone strength.
  • Physicians can view PowerPoint presentations including one on developing a physical activity program for seniors.
  • Researchers can access scientific literature on physical activity related to various disabilities and find out about conferences, meetings and related events.
  • A stroke victim's family can look up national organizations, references to scientific literature, accessible health and exercise programs in their area, and adaptive-product makers.
  • All users can share concerns, new information and approaches through the site's Discussion Forum.

The site addresses many disabilities, from those that are increasing in prevalence (such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and Alzheimer's disease) to those that are less common (such as Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury and ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease). It also includes information geared specifically to women with disabilities.

"The center Web site is a very useful reference tool on physical activity and exercise for people with disabilities, and will provide considerable benefit to an expanding national audience," said Joe Smith, senior project officer of the CDC's Disability and Health Branch. "Many programs support efforts to prevent disabilities, but CDC's Disability and Health Branch focuses on people who are living with an impairment or disability. Our efforts are aimed at promoting the health, productivity, independence and quality of life of these people."

Staff at the UIC National Center on Physical Activity and Disability are gathering and evaluating scientific literature on physical activity and the full-range of disability including physical, sensory and mental, that previously was scattered and diffuse. Much of this information now is available on the site.

A research-to-practice panel of 32 leading scientists in physical activity and disability not only are producing papers and reports on the state of knowledge in their areas of expertise, but also providing customized information to individual users of the call center and Web site. UIC call center staff have access to experts to provide information to a consumer throughout the course of an illness or disability. Physical limitations may increase over time with certain conditions creating new physical challenges that require innovative approaches to physical activity.

The establishment of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability in UIC's department of disability and human development is a natural outgrowth of the department's other large center grants, Rimmer says. These grants include the Great Lakes Disability and Technical Assistance Center, Center on Emergent Disability and Center on Health Promotion Research. The department not only has emerged as a national leader in research and service but also in education. It and two other UIC departments established the nation's first Ph.D. program in disability studies in 1998.

Health reporters and producers are encouraged to provide the public with the URL (http://ncpad.org) for the Web site of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability at UIC whenever they think it may be useful to their audiences.

User Perspectives
UIC National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
Call Center and Web Site

Medical Professional

Dr. Ben Gerber, clinical instructor in medicine at the UIC Medical Center, said he anticipates using the Web site to educate himself and his patients. "It's important to be aware of a credible medical Web site where you can get the most up-to-date information, particularly since the issues we're discussing are rapidly evolving.

"I see the site being of tremendous value particularly to specific populations, such as women with disabilities, because the medical information that is so pervasive throughout the Internet is very generalized. Until now there has not been nearly enough in-depth, targeted information on the Net for people with disabilities."

Person with Disability

Christine Richardson, a Pennsylvania resident who suffers from numerous debilitating medical conditions including steroid-dependent asthma, diabetes and arthritis, says physical activity has helped her lose weight, lower her blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol, as well as improve her lung function, endurance, strength and self-image.

After her physical condition had deteriorated to a near-fatal level and, she says, doctors all but gave up on her, Richardson discovered an exercise tape for people in wheel chairs and began exercising with it regularly. Her health soon improved and her newfound interest in physical activity led her to visit the Web site of the National Center on Physical Fitness and Disability, where she obtained more information to help her expand her physical fitness regimen. She added walking outdoors and on a treadmill, riding a stationary bicycle and light aerobics.

Richardson recently completed a five-mile walk to raise funds for multiple sclerosis research and plans to return to horseback riding this summer. "No one in the medical profession knows what to do with us. People often have to find a place to start on their own. The call center and Web site provide a very good start for anyone with a disability," Richardson said.

"Physical activity is even more important for physical wrecks like me than it is for people without disabilities," she added. "I'll never run a marathon, but I don't have sit on the couch, eat potato chips and wait to die."

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