Health Programs

Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with intellectual disabilities are often denied health services and die on average 16 years sooner than the general population.

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, and in the United States in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is creating a world where people with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be healthy.

Inclusive health means people with ID are able to take full advantage of the same health programs and services available to people who do not have ID.  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.

Impaired coping abilities and communication skills – common among people with ID – can mask health concerns. This can lead to a breakdown in the quality of health care and health education, for people with ID. Over the past two decades, Special Olympics has improved the health of people with ID around the world by collaborating with our athletes, health care providers, community organizations, universities, and governments.

Disclaimer:  The mark “CDC” is owned by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services and is used with permission. Use of this logo is not an endorsement by HHS or CDC of any particular product, service, or enterprise. 

Healthy Athletes®

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.

Healthy Athletes offers screenings in eight disciplines, including Fit Feet, FUNfitness (Physical Therapy), Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion, Opening Eyes®, Special Smiles®, MedFest® and Strong Minds.


  • To improve access and health care for Special Olympics athletes at event-based health screenings
  • 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

yellow_arrowLearn more about the Healthy Athletes® Program

yellow_arrowLearn more about our Fit 5 Program and request a kit to get started


Healthy CommunitySO_HealthyCommunitySeal_230

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.

yellow_arrowLearn more about Healthy Community

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.

yellow_arrowRead more about the report on the CDC website