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The Healthy Athletes initiative is a health screening and education program designed for people with Intellectual Disabilities. Healthy Athletes Screenings are offered in eight disciplines and are administered by volunteer healthcare providers at sporting events throughout the year. Launched in 1997, Healthy Athletes has made Special Olympics the largest healthcare provider for people with Intellectual Disabilities in the world.

The need for Healthy Athletes is great. Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better health care than others, they typically receive sub-standard care, or virtually no health care at all. People with intellectual disabilities have poorer health, more specialized health care needs, and greater difficulty accessing health care services and doctors compared to the general population.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), despite the severe need and higher health risk, people with intellectual disabilities are denied health services, community interventions, and there is a lack of targeted interventions and programs for the population.

HEALTHY ATHLETE DISCIPLINES

In order for athletes to perform at their best, both on and off the playing field, we believe promoting a healthy lifestyle to our athletes is critical to their success. The Healthy Athletes program is dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes, and changing the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities.  All screenings are free to athletes and occur throughout the year.

Since officially launching in 1997 as a Special Olympics program, Healthy Athletes has grown to provide EIGHT different health screenings with the goal to improve athletes’ ability to train and compete. 

HEALTH CHALLENGES

Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better healthcare than others, they typically receive sub-standard care, or virtually no healthcare at all. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities are at an increased risk for poorer health and preventable health conditions.

On a typical Team of 10 Special Olympics Athletes:

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4 have untreated tooth decay
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1 needs urgent referral to a dentist

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4 need eye glasses

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3 would fail a hearing test

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9 will have problems with balance or flexbility
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7 will be overweight or obese

QUESTIONS?

For more information about Healthy Athletes or to get involved with the project,
please contact Health Program Developer, Brock Reissner:

brockr@specialolympicsontario.com or 416-447-8326 ext 268

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