Section Heading Background Image


For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Promoting and Assessing Health

October 2013 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

man with down syndrome standing in front of painting

7 Keys to Promoting Health and Assessing Change in Health

  1. Assess contributing medical conditions
  2. Assess contributing psychological conditions
  3. Optimize communication
  4. Assess and optimize sensory issues
  5. Assess the social environment
  6. Medication as needed
  7. Promote healthy behavior/encourage self-promotion of health

What are important aspects of promoting and assessing health in people with Down syndrome?

The assessment of physical/medical and psychological conditions and understanding their interaction are key aspects of assessing a change in health in a person with Down syndrome. Finding conditions before they become symptomatic (health screening) and early diagnosis to limit the effect of these conditions help optimize and improve health.

The ability to communicate can significantly improve health. Getting as much history as possible from the person with DS enhances health care delivery. The use of augmentative communication devices, secondhand history from observers who regularly see the person with DS, and questionnaires to improve the collection of health information can all be beneficial.

Each individual uniquely perceives the world. Some individuals have particular differences that can make participation in daily activities challenging. For example, some individuals have highly sensitive/overly sensitive light or sound perception. This may make certain settings very challenging due to overstimulation. This is especially true for people with DS who also have autism but can be true for those without autism as well. Not appreciating these issues can lead to a lack of understanding of the causes of a behavioral change.

The social environment can have significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health. We have found that sometimes the assessment of the environment is best done “onsite.” A visit to the home, work setting, school, or other places can provide information that is just not otherwise available.

Health promotion and optimizing health without medications can address many physical and psychological issues. However, a number of conditions will require medications.

Promoting daily healthy behavior and encouraging self-promotion of health are key components of good health. Self-promotion of health is a particularly exciting and rather new part of health care for adults with DS. The ability to participate in one’s own health is HUGE and can lead to improved health and fitness and decreased illness.

Find More Resources

We offer a variety of resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers and the professionals who care for and work with them. Search our collection of articles, webinars, videos, and other educational materials.

View Resource Library


Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.