Temple’s College of Public Health and the College of Education’s Institute on Disabilities have been awarded a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council to examine the impact of COVID-19 on people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers.

“This is a population that traditionally has not always been able to access healthcare in the same way as the general population,” said Philip McCallion, professor and director of the School of Social Work. “A lot of work has been done to try to address that, and we want to be sure that in a situation like COVID-19, that we're not losing ground for this population, that they're still receiving the best possible care.”

People with developmental disabilities are not naturally at higher risk for becoming infected with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But one recent study found that the COVID-19 fatality rate for this population is higher than the rate in the general public. People in this group may have more co-occurring conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. And people with developmental disabilities may be more likely to live in group settings that can impede social distancing.

The study will examine the incidence and the prevalence of COVID-19 among people with developmental disabilities as well as how the population is affected.

“What happens if they are tested and found to have COVID-19? We're expecting that we'll find some things that are different for this population,” McCallion said. The research will also look at individuals in different settings to better understand any differences arising from those situations, whether individuals are living independently, at home with family, in group homes, and in other forms of out-of-home placement.

“We're going to talk with their caregivers,” said McCallion. “What we're really interested in learning, assuming that there may be future waves of COVID-19 or a similar virus, is what can we learn from all of this that will help us be better prepared for the future?”