Health Plans to Employment

People with disabilities experience secondary conditions that are associated with poor employment outcomes.  Past research indicates that many of these secondary conditions can be managed through participation in health promotion programs.  Unfortunately, access to programs is limited for people with disabilities who are not employed or live in rural communities with access barriers related to distance, time, and availability. The Health Plans to Employment (HPE) project was designed to address these access issues by developing on online self-directed health promotion intervention.

The HPE is an interactive health promotion website that includes health behavior change content and tailored action planning in the areas of stress management, physical activity, nutrition, and sleep/relaxation.  Program participants recruited from Vocational Rehabilitation consumers (n = 222) experienced significant reductions in limitation from secondary health conditions, fewer prevalence days of poor physical and mental health, and higher ratings of health promoting lifestyle behaviors over the six month study span.  This is important because evidence suggests that reducing the rate of secondary health conditions can help people with disabilities gain or maintain employment (Ipsen, Seekins, & Arnold, 2011). Application of the HPE within the VR system is a natural fit because VR serves a significant portion of unemployed people with disabilities, who may lack access to employer-sponsored health promotion initiatives. Finally, due to the low-cost and easy scalability of the HPE application, there are many additional venues for promoting health promotion access for people with disabilities such as Centers of Independent Living, rural health clinics, and employers.

Links to Scholarly Articles and Abstracts:

A Prospective Study to Examine the Influence of Secondary Health Conditions on VR Client Employment Outcomes

Evaluation of an Online Health Promotion Program for Vocational Rehabilitation Consumers

Working Well with a Disability: Health Promotion as a Means to Employment

Quick Links: Employment & Vocational Rehabilitation

Current Projects

  • Rural Contracted Services
    Vocational Rehabilitation agencies purchase job development services from vendors. How vendors are paid influences service reach, delivery outcomes, and pacing. The goal of this project is to increase the quality and number of vendors that provide job placement and development services in rural communities.
  • Rural Self-Employment Opportunities
    Self-employment is an important option for rural consumers of Vocational Rehabilitation services. The goal of this project is to develop and evaluate a state Vocational Rehabilitation self-employment process.
  • Use of Social Media for Employment
    In keeping with current job-search methods, Vocational Rehabilitation counselors should have capacity to guide consumers on the use of social media for a wide range of job-search and related tasks. This project will develop a recommended state Vocational Rehabilitation policy to guide use of social media and develop and evaluate training for VR counselors.

Completed Projects

COMPLETED PROJECTS | 2008 - 2013

 
  • Comparing Rural/Urban Vocational Rehabilitation Service Delivery
    We compiled 2008 and 2009 RSA-911 data with zip and county code information from 47 VR agencies and used these data to compare rural and urban caseloads and outcomes. As compared to urban, rural caseloads had a higher rate of transition aged students and a lower rate of consumers with mental health disability. Outcomes were different in terms of closure rates to self-employment, supported employment in integrated settings, and time to IPE plan development. Rural and urban data comparisons provide the basis for more targeted evaluation of VR delivery practices.
  • Health Plans to Employment
    People with disabilities often experience health problems such as pain, weight gain, or high blood pressure. These problems can make it difficult to hold a job. Participation in health promotion programs can have positive effects on health but services are often limited in rural areas. Health Plans to Employment is a virtual health promotion program that consumers can access from their homes.
  • Premature Exit from VR Services
    Consumers leave VR services for a number of reasons. Some leave because services are too slow, they are unable to find a job, or they have problems connecting with the VR counselor. Sometimes consumers are frustrated because promised services are not forthcoming. Finding solutions to these problems will save valuable VR funding as well as improve outcomes for VR consumers.
  • VR Agencies' Use of Telecommunications to Deliver Services
    People in rural areas have trouble getting to in-person meetings with VR counselors because of transportation barriers. Telecommunication may be one way to increase services to these consumers. Research on this topic led to the development of the Telecom Toolbox, an online service designed to educate VR counselors about using telecommunications to serve consumers.

COMPLETED PROJECTS | prior to 2008

 
  • Community and Economic Development
    This project developed a process for people with disabilities and agencies that provide disability services to assist with economic development in rural areas. One outcome of the project was a grant that supported low-income entrepreneurs and led to the development of 79 small businesses.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Self-Employment: Rural/Urban Use
    This project identified differences in rural and urban counselor attitudes and their use of self-employment as an employment outcome. Rural counselors used self-employment at higher rates than urban counselors, but both desired additional training in how to support consumers in business development.
  • State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Self-Employment Policies and Procedures
    This project collected and analyzed state Vocational Rehabilitation agency policies and procedures on self-employment to develop a model policy for adoption.
  • National Study of People with Disabilities who are Self-Employed
    People with disabilities are self-employed at higher rates than the general population. This study surveyed entrepreneurs with disabilities to learn more about their successes and challenges as business owners.
  • Steps for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors: Helping a Consumer Start a Business
    VR counselors are trained as employment counselors, not business developers. In order to provide services to consumers who want to start their own businesses, counselors need information and training. To address this gap, we developed a training designed for VR counselors to help them provide better services to people who want to be self-employed.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Linkages with Small Business Development Centers
    This project focused on encouraging VR agencies to work with Small Business Development Centers. This collaboration is sometimes hard because each agency has different responsibilities. RTC: Rural looked at the ways in which the services provided by each agency overlapped and developed a process for collaboration.
  • Action on Self Employment
    The RTC: Rural and the Abilities Fund hosted a national conference to advance the cause of self-employment for people with disabilities. The conference focused on consumer access to capital.
  • Worker Cooperatives
    Worker cooperatives have a long history in rural America. Members of the cooperative co-own and manage the business and share costs and responsibilities. This project researched and described ways for people to organize and manage worker-owned businesses.
  • Working Well with a Disability
    Working Well with a Disability (WWD) is a program that was developed to help people with disabilities find and maintain employment by setting goals and improving their health. It was adapted from the RTC: Rural’s health promotion program, Living Well with a Disability (LWD). Researchers who developed LWD found that the healthier people are, the more they are able to do. The WWD program builds on LWD but focuses on consumers who are employed or seeking employment.

Products & Training

  • American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center
    The American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center (AIDTAC) was a national center providing information, training, and technical assistance to vocational rehabilitation and employment-related services assisting American Indians and Alaska Natives with disabilities.
  • Self-Employment Online Curriculum
    This is an online, self-employment training program for vocational rehabilitation counselors, counselors working in Section 121 programs and students pursuing a degree in vocational rehabilitation.
  • Telecom Toolbox
    Telecom Toolbox is an online resource for Vocational Rehabilitation counselors to help build their capacity to use online communication methods while providing services to consumers.
  • Working Well with a Disability
    Working Well with a Disability is a peer-led health promotion workshop that focuses on creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle that supports employment. Training is available.

External Resources