About 400 Australian adults with intellectual disability are dying each year from potentially avoidable causes, a royal commission has been told.
The Australian health care system is not equipped to meet the complex needs of people with intellectual disability, UNSW Professor Julian Trollor said.
Prof Trollor said people with intellectual disability are dying from similar things to most Australians, but there is a large gap when it comes to the proportion of potentially avoidable deaths.
"I estimate that between the ages of 20 and upward, about 400 Australians with intellectual disability will die annually from a potentially avoidable death," he told a disability royal commission hearing in Sydney on Thursday.
Prof Trollor said for every tragic story the royal commission hears about the death of a person with cognitive disability, there are many more nationally.
"I think that is a huge issue that speaks to the lack of equipping of people with disability with the knowledge they need to access health services, a lack of vision in policy and a lack of vision in health service provision for people with disability that ultimately leads to tragic outcomes like that."
UNSW research found 38 per cent of deaths of people with intellectual disability were from potentially avoidable causes, more than double that experienced by the general population.
Royal commission Chair Ronald Sackville QC said the evidence also pointed to a very much diminished quality of life for people with cognitive disability, if there were illnesses that should have been diagnosed and treated but were not.
Prof Trollor said the health system is not equipped nor prepared to deal with the quite complex health care needs of people with intellectual disability.
"The current health care landscape in Australia is one of a lack of preparedness for the needs of people with developmental disabilities," he said.
"This lack of preparedness manifests on every level - primary, specialist and acute care settings - and in services across the life span from childhood to later life.
"Such systemic lack of preparedness is a major contributor to the stark mental and physical health disadvantage experienced by people with developmental disabilities compared to the general Australian population."
Australian Associated Press