RTC:Rural Rural Institute University of Montana

logo for Montana Disability & Health Program: Living well under the Big Sky

Montana Disability and Health Brochure


Three photos: two people practice using Access Sticks to measure slope; man using crutches; boy using wheelchair

A partnership of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
and The University of Montana Rural Institute

Recently, there has been an explosion of interest in the health and wellness of people with disabilities. From some perspectives, this relatively new area of concern represents the most significant disability development since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990.

In our rural state, economic, disability, rehabilitation and health care resources are scarce and must reach people dispersed over large areas. The use of public health resources offers an important way to reduce the risk and prevent or manage secondary health conditions and associated need for acute care.

Montana is one of 16 states funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to promote the health and wellness and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. http://healthypeople.gov/2020/

Who We Are

Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH) is a partnership of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MDPHHS) and The University of Montana Rural Institute.

For 20 years, this partnership has involved Montana’s service organizations and people with disabilities in collaborative efforts to improve the health of Montanans with disabilities.

Montana is building on these efforts through the Montana Disability and Health Program: Living Well Under the Big Sky.

Our GoalsPhoto of a "Reserved Parking" sign at trailhead

The long-term goals for the Montana Disability
and Health Program are to

  • Improve the health of people with disabilities
  • Prevent and manage secondary health conditions
  • Eliminate health disparities experienced by people with disabilities

For more information, Montana Disability and Health Program Strategic Plan.

Living Well With A Disability

With Montana’s four centers for independent living (CILs), we are conducting Living Well with a Disability, a 10-week, peer-facilitated, health promotion workshop.

Photo of man shopping for fresh vegetables

Living Well with a Disability (LWD) teaches skills to

  • Link health to quality of life
  • Set goals and solve problems
  • Manage frustration and discouragement
  • Seek information
  • Develop and maintain healthy relationships
  • Eat well and be physically active
  • Advocate for oneself and for systems change
  • Maintain healthy lifestyle changes

National research shows LWD to be cost-effective at reducing limitations associated with secondary health conditions.

Contact MTDH or your local CIL to implement or participate in a Living Well with a Disability workshop in your community.


Materials Supporting Education and Nutrition in Adults with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities
(MENU AIDDs) coordinates practice guidelines, support and education materials, and methods of evaluation to improve food and nutrition in group homes. Program results include high resident and staff satisfaction, improved menu quality, and better weight management.

MTDH is partnering with the MT Developmental Disabilities Program and Community providers to implement MENU AIDDs statewide.

Accessible Formats

When a print product is mad available to the public, alternative formats are useful to people with disabilities. MTDH works with Public Health Programs to produce materials in large print, Braille, audiotape, and text files for screen-reader software.

Accessibility Ambassadors

MTDH recruits, trains and supports state disability leaders to assess and improve accessibility. Ambassadors educate housing stakeholders about “Visit-ability” as a design strategy to improve the accessibility of private homes and neighborhoods.

Disability Advisors

Photo of three meeting attendees

We recruit, train, and support disability advisors to participate in MDPHHS advisory groups, and to integrate disability and health into public health planning and evaluation. Click here for Guidelines.

Women’s Health

Women with disabilities can face barriers to accessing healthcare, education and services. MTDH supports the CDC’s Right to Know Campaign.

MTDH also supports Women Be Healthy (WBH), a curriculum designed for women with intellectual
and developmental disabilities. WBH works with clinics and community partners statewide.

Call to Action

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to improve the health and wellness of people with disabilities

 “This call to Action encourages …

  • Health care providers to see and treat the whole person, not just the disability;
  • Educators to teach about disability;
  • A public to see an individual’s abilities, not just his or her disability; and
  • A community to ensure accessible health care and wellness services for persons with disabilities.”

 ~Surgeon General Richard Carmona


Montana Disability and Health Program

A partnership between Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
and The University of Montana Rural Institute

Funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Grant #5U59DD000287-04

RTC: Rural, The University of Montana Rural Institute: A Center for Excellence in
Disability, Education, Research and Service, 52 Corbin Hall, Missoula, MT 59812-7056

888-268-2743 or 406-243-4956, 406-243-4200 TTY

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Logo
 The University of Montana Rural Institute Logo, Center for Excellence in Disability Education, Research, and Service