The mission of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes®, developed in 1996 by Special Olympics International, is to improve athletes’ ability to train and compete in Special Olympics. Healthy Athletes is designed to help Special Olympics athletes improve their health and fitness, leading to enhanced sports experience and improved well-being.
- To improve access and health care for Special Olympics athletes at event-based health exams
- To make referrals to local health practitioners when appropriate
- To train healthcare professionals and students in the health professions about the needs and care of people with intellectual disabilities
- To collect, analyze and disseminate data on the health status and needs of people with intellectual disabilities
- To advocate for improved health policies and programs for persons with intellectual disabilities
Healthy Community is a premier, health care delivery approach that focuses on the whole person with an intellectual or developmental disability and provides integrated health care coordination.
Good health is necessary for persons with an intellectual or developmental disability to secure the freedom to work, learn, and engage in their families and communities. The United States Surgeon General stated, “Individuals with a developmental disability are more likely to receive inappropriate and inadequate treatment, or be denied health care altogether. Children, youth, and adults with developmental disabilities receive fewer routine health examinations, fewer immunizations, less mental health care, less prophylactic oral health care, and fewer opportunities for physical exercise and athletic achievement than do other Americans. Those with communication difficulties are especially at greater risk for poor nutrition, over-medication, injury, and abuse.” Special Olympics International created Healthy Community in response to the U.S. Surgeon General call to action on the health care disparities for people with an intellectual or developmental disability.
Half of U.S. Adults with Disabilities Don’t Exercise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out new findings on physical activity and people with disabilities. Half of adult Americans with disabilities who could be active at some level get no aerobic physical activity. In contrast to the CDC findings, all Special Olympics athletes are physically active through the training and competition the organization offers in 32 different sports plus fitness, health, and wellness activities.
Physical activity has been linked to lower incidence of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers, so it was not surprising that the CDC study, featured in its monthly “Vital Signs” reporting, found that adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have these four types of morbidity than adults without disabilities, and that adults with disabilities who do not exercise are 50% more likely to have them, compared with adults who also have disabilities but are physically active.