Aims: The purpose of this study was to identify health characteristics of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and to assess the use of emergency care facilities by these people and factors affecting this utilization. Method: A cross-sectional study was employed. Subjects were recruited from the Taiwan National Disability Registration System. A total of 1071 people registered with ID in Taiwan were recruited for this study in 2001. Data were collected via a structured mail-out questionnaire that was completed by the main carers of people with ID. Results: Most of the carers subjectively characterized the overall health status of people with ID as good-excellent. However, people with ID carry a burden of diseases greater than that of the general population. Nearly half (47.7%) of the subjects reported having an illness in the past 7 months. Most of the morbidity was associated with neurological, psychiatric, digestive, dermatological and cardiovascular diseases or disorders. One-third of subjects took medication regularly and 15% were 'Major Illness' card beneficiaries of the Taiwan National Health Insurance scheme. About two-thirds of individuals with ID were classified as having multiple disabilities and 24.5% needed to be provided with frequent rehabilitative therapies to maintain their normal daily functions. Respondents indicated that 18.4% of the subjects had used emergency care in the past 7 months. A stepwise logistic regression model highlighted that the following need factors were significantly related to the utilization of emergency care: having an illness (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.2-3.6), taking medicine regularly (OR = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.1-2.9) and self-reported health status (poor health: OR = 9.9, 95% CI = 2.1-45.7; bad health: OR = 8.2, 95% CI = 1.3-49.8). Conclusions: To ensure that people with ID minimize their utilization of emergency care, it is necessary to establish in appropriate community systems to monitor individuals with ID with poor health status, diseases and who take medicine regularly.
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