Kendall A. Leser, Ph.D., Phyllis L. Pirie, Ph.D., Amy K. Ferketich, Ph.D., Susan M. Havercamp, Ph.D.,Mary Ellen Wewers, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Disability and Health Journal, Vol. 10, Issue 4, p532–541
People with developmental disabilities lead more sedentary lifestyles, consume poorer diets, as well as have higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease when compared to members of the general population. Direct support professionals play a large social role in the lives of their clients with developmental disabilities, and thus have the ability to influence the health behaviors of their clients.
The overall purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the dietary and physical activity behaviors of direct support professionals and their clients with developmental disabilities, as well as to assess how direct support professionals facilitate the health behaviors of their clients.
A statewide random sample of direct support professionals (n = 398) completed an online survey about their own dietary/physical activity behaviors and these same health behaviors of their adult clients with developmental disabilities. Pearson/Spearman correlations were used to examine the relationship between the health behaviors of direct support professionals and their clients with developmental disabilities.
Small-to-moderate correlations (ρ or r = 0.127–0.333) between direct support professionals’ and clients’ behaviors existed for all dietary and physical activity health behaviors except for participation in some sort of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week (ρ = 0.098, p = 0.06).
Direct support professionals appear to play a role in the dietary/physical activity behaviors of their clients; however, future research on this topic should also include other key members of the social networks of adults with developmental disabilities such as family members, roommates, and day-habilitation providers.