Healthy Community Program Updates from Special Olympics

Special Olympics has implemented a new program, Healthy Communities, where Special Olympics athletes and others with intellectual disabilities have the same access to health and wellness resources – and can attain the same level of good health – as all community members. Special Olympics has shared the latest Healthy Community updates from the global program.

Healthy Communities Recognition Program Launched: In November, Special Olympics CEO, Janet Froetscher, and Chairman, Tim Shriver, launched the Healthy Communities recognition program and challenged Programs around the world to join the health revolution. Since then several Programs have expressed an interest with Special Olympics Minnesota, Special Olympics Czech Republic, and Special Olympics Washington being the first to apply for Healthy Community recognition.

Special Olympics Mexico Secures Free Health Insurance for all Athletes: Recognizing that lack of affordable health insurance is a barrier for many people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID), the Mexican Health Department, with the urging of Special Olympics Mexico, recently approved the eligibility of all Mexico’s 29,000 athletes to receive Seguro Popular (‘popular health insurance’) including medical and surgical care free of charge. Special Olympics Mexico is now working to register every athlete in each state. Seguro Popular is a government-funded program aimed to ensure that even the poorest Mexican citizens have access to an adequate standard of health care – from treatment for the most pressing chronic and catastrophic illnesses, to preventative healthcare such as vaccination and diabetes screening.

Special Olympics Florida Opens Second Healthy Community Site: A second site focused on Healthy Communities in Florida was opened in Tampa Bay in January 2015. Located within the MacDonald Training Center for people with disabilities, the site offers health classes and health examinations for people with ID. The site hosted their first wellness and nutrition class on January 20th with support from interns from the University of Tampa and University of South Florida. Upcoming events include MedFest, Health Promotion and Special Smiles clinics.

Thailand Ministry of Public Health Adopts Healthy Community Model: As part of the Healthy Community pilot, Special Olympics Thailand provided multiple health assessments for 996 children with intellectual disability at 6 special schools. The results, showing multiple gaps and weaknesses in the health system, were recently shared with the government along with recommendations to improve healthcare access by strengthening the collaboration between government agencies related to healthcare, education & social services, in order to deliver holistic healthcare services for people with ID. As a result, the government has agreed to expand the Healthy Community health assessment model to 14 additional special schools nationwide benefiting over 5,000 children with ID. The program, launched in January, involves a first ever collaboration between the Ministries of Public Health, Education and Social Services at the provincial level and will provide health assessments, implementation of a new patient tracking database, training of health care professionals and families as well as follow up care services. The results of the expanded pilot will provide significant data to guide the necessary government policy changes needed to address the identified health gap and demonstrate the impact of the Healthy Communities model.

Malaria/HIV Pilot Set to Begin in Nigeria: Upon securing a $270,000 grant from Exxon Mobil, Special Olympics Nigeria and Grassroot Soccer have teamed up to deliver an interactive Malaria/HIV health education program through the popular game of soccer in order to improve access to Malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, education and health services for people with ID and improve district-level coordination to offer these services to people with ID. They will train up to 100 coaches to deliver the curriculum culminating in Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) soccer tournaments for hundreds of athletes. The development of specialized curriculum will begin in February.