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Inclusive Health for All

Our vision is to create a world where people with and without intellectual disabilities (ID) have the same opportunities to be healthy. When people with ID have access to health services, they also have more opportunities for education, employment, sports, and other pathways to reach full participation in society. Our goal is 11 million people with ID with improved access to health by 2020.

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, began in 1997 with Healthy Athletes®. Since then, we have provided millions of free health screenings and empowered athletes to become wellness leaders in their communities. Special Olympics also works directly with international organizations and ministries of health to create fully inclusive health services for people with ID.

Every day, we are breaking down barriers that prevent people with intellectual disabilities (ID) from receiving the same access to quality health care and attention as people without ID. In 2017, Special Olympics Health made stunning leaps in improving education, inclusion and care. Since Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® was founded 20 years ago, the program has conducted more than 2 million health screenings for our athletes. We have also trained more than 240,000 health-care professionals in over 135 countries.

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Our health partnerships are crucial to expanding this work around the world. Most visibly, since 2012, our partnership with the Golisano Foundation has been unlocking doors to quality health screenings, follow-up care, plus fitness and prevention programming for people with ID worldwide. Our Golisano partnership also enables us to collaborate with international organizations, providers and health-care authorities to better meet the needs of this neglected population.

This year also marked a major expansion in Healthy Communities®-- our successful model that ensures year-round access to quality health care and prevention programming for people with ID.There are now more than 50 Special Olympics Healthy Communities in five Regions around the world.

This year, Special Olympics entered into a formal partnership with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). The shared goal is to create sustainable health systems and services inclusive of all people with ID. In the USA, there was also a major increase in collaboration and funding from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. This is working to implement health programs and launch medical school curricula more inclusive of people with ID, among other breakthroughs.

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In 2017, Healthy Athletes officially welcomed an eighth discipline: Strong Minds. The focus is on helping athletes strengthen their coping skills and maintain emotional wellness, even under stress.

Throughout, Special Olympics athletes continue to take the lead as Health Messengers by inspiring their teams and communities to develop healthy lifestyles. They are also advocating within their communities for inclusion in health and wellness services, education and resources for people with ID.


Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards

The first-ever Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards, named for philanthropist B. Thomas Golisano, were announced during the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

The Golisano Foundation has invested $37 million to make Special Olympics Health work possible globally and expand Special Olympics Healthy Communities worldwide.

Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello presented the seven awards, as well as two Golisano Global Health Leadership Pioneer Awards.

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Attending the awards ceremony, seated from left: Dr. Wing-Kun Tam, Former Lions Clubs International President, Special Olympics International Board Member; Remi Huwaert; Paul Nauwelaerts; Golisano Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello; Amporn Benjaponpitak, Special Olympics International Chief Executive Officer Mary Davis; Boonrueng Triraungworawat; standing from left: Drew Boshell , Senior Vice President, Sport and Health, Special Olympics International; Susan Danberg; Mohamed Askar, Stephen Sulkes; Denisse Aguilar; Special Olympics International Board Member Peter Mazunda; Steven Perlman; Jianbo Zhu.
  • Korea International Cooperation Agency
    Korea International Cooperation Agency provides two full-time volunteer staff and holds free medical camps for athletes in Uganda. KOICA also has a mobile health program that provides medical screenings and treatment for the rural community.
  • Lions Clubs International
    Lions Clubs International MD 112 Belgium supports Belgium’s Healthy Athletes program financially by covering costs for supplies for multiple events. The club has also helped find new sponsors to support Healthy Athletes.
  • Rajanukul Institute, Ministry of Public Health
    Rajanukul Institute, Ministry of Public Health personnel have developed screening tools specific to the needs of athletes, prepared training resources for health professionals and special educators, and provide healthcare advice to athletes and families.
  • Dr. Stephen Sulkes
    Dr. Stephen Sulkes has helped secure grants to improve the fitness of Special Olympics New York athletes. He founded a student chapter of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) and encourages students to get involved with Special Olympics through Healthy Athletes and as event volunteers and coaches.
  • Dr. Mohamed Askar
    Dr. Mohamed Askar recruits and trains volunteer health professionals during Healthy Athletes events and in his private orthopedic clinic. His work with medical companies and universities has helped secure equipment, supplies, medical balls and wheelchairs for athletes.
  • Beijing Tongren Hospital, Capital Medical University
    Beijing Tongren Hospital, Capital Medical University works with medical professionals throughout China and ensures that sustainable eye health and treatment access are available to Special Olympics athletes.
  • Universidad Cientifica del Sur – Escuela de Estomatología (FCS)
    Universidad Cientifica del Sur – Escuela de Estomatología (FCS) provides free dental care for people with ID. The academic curriculum of the dental program now includes eight mandatory hours to train students on how to approach and interact with patients who have special needs.
  • Steven Perlman, DDS
    Steven Perlman, DDS, founded Special Olympics Special Smiles® oral health discipline. He is a clinical professor of pediatric dentistry at the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as Senior Global Clinical Advisor for Special Olympics International.
  • Dr. Paul Berman
    Dr. Paul Berman (1950-2013) was the founder and Global Clinical Director of Special Olympics’ Opening Eyes and the Healthy Athletes program.