Through Healthy Athletes, SOI will implement Healthy Communities Demonstration Projects (Healthy Communities) in 12 locations worldwide. These Healthy Communities will receive targeted multi-year funding to extend existing health programs from the current event based model to a year round model. These Healthy Communities will do the following:
- Provide more health care services and education to people with ID through new partnerships. A diverse set of regional, national and local organizations (NGOs, national ministries, universities, health care /promotion providers, etc.) will be engaged in order to provide targeted services that reach people with ID, both at SOI clinics and more broadly in the community. A particular focus will be on leveraging the worldwide access that SOI has to people with ID, to provide partner health organizations (including those focused on diseases of extreme poverty) increased access to this particularly difficult to reach population.
- Integrate health throughout all SOI's global, grassroots programming. SOI conducts 50,000 community-based competitions worldwide annually, each supported by a network of caregivers, coaches, families, volunteers, and athletes. Through Healthy Communities, these events and participants will be harnessed to deliver improved, year-round health messaging, services, and activities to people with ID.
- Leverage technology and bioinformatics to improve health outcomes for people with ID. SOI already possesses the world's largest data set on health status of people with ID. Through this initiative, SOI will have an enhanced ability to collect and use that data, along with mHealth technologies, to both provide caregivers, coaches, and athletes with the information necessary to improve health and well-being.
- Build awareness that drives action. Through this initiative, SOI will be able to incubate, share, and replicate innovative approaches to build additional Healthy Communities across its network of programs in 170 countries worldwide. Additionally, SOI will use its enhanced data to document, analyze, and publicize the health disparities that people with intellectual disabilities, raising awareness to promote the rights of people with ID as a formal priority in the global development forum.
Healthy Communities will be officially launched at the CGI Meeting in September 2012 and projects will be implemented immediately after. In January of 2013, at the World Winter Games in Peyongchang, South Korea, Special Olympics will to host a global development forum focused on ending the cycle of poverty and exclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the developing world. This event will bring together, for the first time, world leaders from government, medicine, industry, academe, civil society, and sports, together with persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, to stress the urgency of taking steps to integrate disability into ensuing global health and development strategies.
This commitment will allow SOI to:
- Hold an additional 1,580 additional medical clinics globally over the next four years, staffed by approximately 18,960 health professionals (including 4,800 newly trained professionals) that will provide health screenings, care, education, and other services for an additional 260,000 athletes.
- Train 735 new worldwide local medical professionals to lead clinics in their communities (including specific focus on delivering infectious disease programming via community-based partnerships) and 75 additional regional medical advisors to train and oversee medical clinics within their regions.
- Award 60 mini-grants to replicate and expand the work of the Healthy Community demonstration projects.
- Develop a fitness and nutrition monitoring app that allows athletes to track physical activity and dietary intake against personalized goals and that utilizes social media to enhance achievement against goals to improve health outcomes.
- Create 96,000 athlete electronic health records via direct digital data entry at clinics, allowing for 1) post-event SMS/text queries about follow-up care, use of received devices (e.g. prescription eyewear, hearing aids, etc.), 2) follow-up care reminders and resources, and 3) critical longitudinal data collection for evaluation, research, advocacy and policy change.
- Provide resources (supplies, equipment, shipping, storage) to support additional events, including new programming around infectious diseases.
- Develop online systems for grant applications and reporting that streamline these processes for SOI programs and support the collection of data.
- Enhance quality assurance and monitoring of events through site visits and audits and add additional staff to assist with health information systems, recruitment and training of healthcare practitioners, and implementation of infectious disease programming and partnerships.
- Generate incremental health funding and services to support the long-term, sustainable growth and success of Special Olympics health initiatives.
The Healthy Communities initiative presents the opportunity to achieve remarkable health outcomes for people with ID, both individually and collectively as a neglected population. Hundreds of thousands of athletes will receive direct care at Special Olympics competitions. Thousands more healthcare practitioners, organizations and systems will be engaged in treatment of people with intellectual disabilities, both at our clinics and in their communities - resulting in literally millions more people receiving attention and care outside of the Special Olympics movement.
Throughout the world, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are literally a forgotten population when it comes to access to and quality of healthcare they receive. Globally, nearly 200,000,000 people with ID face a highly elevated risk for isolation, stigma, physical abuse, poverty, and lack of access to services and information - all compounding to create gross disparities in terms of their health status and basic protections. Simply put, in countries around the world, people with ID are consistently the most marginalized population subset - a status that comes with horrific health outcomes.
The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program (Healthy Athletes) promotes the overall well-being of people with ID via a global grassroots network of programs in 170 countries worldwide, offering free health screenings at Special Olympics competitions and promoting ongoing access to quality, community-based healthcare services. Special Olympics International (SOI) runs the largest public health program in the world for people with ID, and has conducted over 1.2 million screenings in seven different healthcare disciplines, while training and activating more than 100,000 healthcare practitioners to provide care to people with ID both at SOI clinics and in their own practices. Through this work, SOI has amassed the world's largest data set documenting the health disparities facing people with ID globally.
As Healthy Athletes approaches its 15th anniversary, it is recognized as a proven, cost-effective program that has been implemented at events throughout the world. Healthy Athletes has served as a tool not only for improving athlete health and well-being, but also for educating professionals and collecting data that call attention to the health needs of the ID population and the important role of Special Olympics International in addressing those needs.