Inclusive communication – Improving health outcomes for people with Down syndrome – A discussion on the research, the development and the delivery of the health ambassador program

Ms Caitlin Woolley1, Mrs Natalie Graham1

1Down Syndrome Australia, Abbotsford, Australia

There are significant health inequalities that people with intellectual disability face when accessing quality health care. In the Roundtable on Health of People with Intellectual Disability (2019) the Minister for Health and other key stakeholders spoke of the challenges facing our health system and people with intellectual disability. People with intellectual disability have approximately 2.5 times the number of health conditions, 50% of which are undiagnosed due to complexity and limited resources, preventative healthcare needs are poorly addressed and people with intellectual disability have high rates of premature and potentially avoidable deaths. The roundtable identified that medical and nursing degrees have an average 2.6 hours of training in intellectual disability care. This program works to positively influence these outcomes.

Down Syndrome Australia sent out a survey via our social media channels to people with Down syndrome. They were asked to answer questions about their experiences with Health Care Workers and what Health Care Workers could do to improve outcomes for people with Down syndrome.

We received 85 responses and 4 main themes were identified which we have built our Inclusive Communications project around.

A national program to improve communication between people with Down syndrome and Health Care Workers. In summary the program has two parts: The Health Ambassadors Program – we have employed 10 Health Ambassadors from around Australia to advocate to health care workers, and the production of information and online learning for Health Care workers.


Natalie is a Registered Nurse and holds a master’s degree in Public Health. Her knowledge and experience of Down syndrome: as a mother of a daughter with Down syndrome and previous Chair of Down Syndrome Victoria. Natalie believes that everyone has the right to be listened to and communicated with.