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Special Olympics Healthy Athlete Program

Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with ID are often denied basic health care and services and are frequently among the most vulnerable populations in any country.

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, was created in 1997 with Healthy Athletes®, and since then we have provided over 1.9 million health screenings and trained over 220,000 health care professionals in over 130 countries.

Special Olympics trains health care providers around the world, improving access to quality health care year-round for people with ID in their own communities.

Throughout the world, Special Olympics is partnering with international organizations, providers, community organizations, businesses, and government agencies to break down barriers to health and other obstacles faced by people with ID.

A growing part of Special Olympics health outreach brings a year-round focus on healthy habits. At a school in Lilongwe, Malawi, students learned how to use a tippy tap, a low-cost way to allow people without plumbing to wash their hands effectively. Good hand washing helps keep diseases from spreading. The lesson was presented by Special Olympics in partnership with Catholic Relief Services.

Work That Changes–and Saves–Lives

Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with ID are often denied health services. There is often a misconception that the poor health of people with ID is due to their disability.

Research has shown that it is in fact a result of a breakdown in health education, health promotion, and health care. This can and should be addressed.

Over the years, Special Olympics health programs have improved the health of our athletes. In many cases, the programs have profoundly changed–or saved–their lives.

Moise Ahoussimou, a poor West African boy with an intellectual disability and next to no vision, is one example. While volunteering with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, a doctor realized Moise had been blinded by cataracts. He was referred for a simple operation. Moise left his appointment with restored sight. He saw his father for the first time.

“I can see.” He grabbed his father’s hand. “Hey! Dad, I didn’t know you are that tall!”