Health Justice for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Commitment By Tom Golisano

In 2012, Tom Golisano committed to fund 12 Special Olympics International Healthy Communities Demonstration Projects worldwide. Through this $12 million contribution, Special Olympics International (SOI) will identify communities where they will deliver a sustained set of health interventions and supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This commitment will enable SOI to expand health services offered through its Healthy Athletes Program beyond the traditional event-based model to a more comprehensive, community-based year-round model. In addition to providing direct health services to more than 300,000 individuals and training more than 5,000 health professionals, this commitment will enable SOI to expand its data collection and ability to document the global health status of people with intellectual disabilities, raise awareness, and generate collaborative solutions to the issue of health disparities facing people with intellectual disabilities.


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Commitment Summary




Africa; Latin America & Caribbean; Northern America; Asia; Europe

Commitment by: 

Tom Golisano

Est. Duration

4 years


Malaysia; Malawi; Mexico; Peru; Romania; South Africa; Thailand; United States of America


Special Olympics, U.S. Center for Disease Control, UNICEF, Safilo Group, Essilor Vision Foundation, Health One Global, Catholic Relief Services, Int'l Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Together For Girls, HEARD (South Africa)


May 2013

Since the launch of this commitment, all selected Healthy Communities (HCs) attended a planning workshop focused on the development of goals, objectives, activities, outputs, and outcomes. All HC project plans and budgets have now been submitted, reviewed by a team of technical experts and approved. SOI and other partners are providing a range of technical expertise, tools, and templates, fostering collaboration among the HCs and with external partners. HCs are at various stages of implementation in creating partnerships for care and health advocates (families, coaches, peers) for SO athletes.

Health promotion and training resources needed to fulfill HC objectives have been identified and distributed. Additional training resources are being developed or modified by technical experts (malaria, HIV, diabetes, obesity). Four monthly webinars and regular teleconferences have been held with HC's to discuss successes, challenges and best practices. A sharepoint site was also developed for HCs to host web discussions and share training resources, stories and innovative practices.

A SOI toolkit on creating follow-up care partnerships has been drafted and will be finalized and ready for dissemination to all SO Programs. HCs have already identified potential health partners and have begun establishing contact. For instance, NJ has secured support from Riverwinds Community Center, Can Do Fitness, and others for a fitness and weight loss program. Kansas has identified and begun discussions with Salina Health Department; Kansas State University Extension, Salina Parks and Recreation, YMCA, and the Salina Regional Health Center. Wisconsin has had discussions with DHS and the UW Extension Program in Madison. Malaysia has spoken with the University Malaysia Sabah, Welfare Department and Lions Club.

Several HC have already started implementing their objectives including training athlete health leaders, holding Family Health Forums and training coaches on health topics. Live health data entry during athlete screenings has also been piloted. Furthermore, to date 365,715 athletes have unique health profile created in association with the SOI health database.

SOI successfully hosted a global development forum focused on the needs and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities living in the developing world. In doing so, SOI brought 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.

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