Trinity College Dublin: Dr. Éilish Burke wins international award for engaged research with people with intellectual disabilities

Dr. Éilish Burke, Ussher Assistant Professor in Ageing and Intellectual Disability has been awarded the 2021 International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in acknowledgement of her research work.

With over 25 years’ experience working with people with intellectual disabilities (ID), Dr Burke’s research focuses on health issues (particularly bone health), inclusionary methods of healthcare screening, healthcare engagement of individuals with intellectual disability and accessible health promotion. Dr Burke’s research is enabled and underpinned by co-production and collaboration with individuals with intellectual disability throughout the research process.

Health inequalities and higher prevalence of chronic health conditions are commonplace among those with intellectual disability. Many adults with ID have been marginalised significantly throughout their lives. Educationally, many have never gone to school, are illiterate and have few opportunities to engage in appropriate learning. Through disparities in health promotion access, many do not fully understand their own health challenges, experience greater health issues than their non-disabled peers and frequently have poorer health experiences.

Informing and improving health and education requires evidence and all too often individuals with ID are omitted from participating in research. This disparity denies individuals to contribute and the opportunity to live a life filled with life affirming value and quality.

Dr Burke has set about addressing these issues by targeting her research in an engaged and specific manner to enable and empower people with ID to be involved, informing the research picture in a meaningful and inclusive way. Her contribution to the field of intellectual disability and education has included, the development, through co-production, of an accessible health assessment for people with ID, Improving Health Assessments for people with ID; the development of an accessible end of life planning toolkit, Glancing Back Planning Forward; the development of an accessible online health education programme for individuals with intellectual disability, Get Wise about your Health, the development of an accessible physical activity programme training individuals to become physical activity leaders, PPALS2 and the co-ordination and development of post graduate and undergraduate modules to support the learning for future healthcare professionals.



Dr Burke is a recognised leader in public engagement, with clear goals, and a focused approached to sustaining public engagement with people with an ID, their carers and service providers. This has led to significant outcomes and impacts, including policies, programs, and service improvements for people with intellectual disability. Additionally, her work with the European Institute of Technology has provided meaningful opportunities for people with ID to become true leaders in their own lives, pursue leadership roles, and challenge stereotypes. Her work provides the evidence base to empower and inform individual with ID to reflect on their health and provides tools to support advocacy for better services and practices.

ciarThis international recognition for Dr Burke’s work shines a spotlight on important issues in our society. While her work is targeted within the intellectual disability field, a relatively small field, much can be learned for all populations where health disparity and marginalisation may harbour. Sometimes when the population is small, it offers the greatest potential for impact.

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