Needs of Direct Support Professionals to Support People With Intellectual Disabilities in Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

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Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities

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Background: For a healthy lifestyle, people with moderate, severe, and profound intellectual disabilities living in residential facilities and/or participating in day activity centers are dependent on their direct support professionals. However, it is unclear what knowledge and skills these direct support professionals require to support these individuals in living a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify the needs of direct support professionals for supporting these people with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Method: Direct support professionals (n = 28) were interviewed with the use of a semi-structured protocol based on the theoretical domains framework. The interviews were analyzed with a theory-driven content analysis. Results: The most frequently mentioned needs referred to the following domains of the theoretical domains framework: environmental context and resources (n = 27), social/professional role and identity (n = 25), social influence (n = 25), skills (n = 24), and knowledge (n = 23). Conclusion: To support people with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities in leading a healthy lifestyle, direct support professionals (DSPs) primarily needed support related to the domain environmental context and resources. Within this domain available time, dealing with different seasons, and a healthy lifestyle policy in the organization need attention. Development of interventions targeting these DSPs needs is required.


Direct support professionals; Healthy lifestyle; Intellectual disability; Practice; Support needs


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