Inclusive health is becoming a reality not just a dream.

We're helping to increase access to quality health care worldwide and improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities.

SOHealthInfoGraphic

The Need

An estimated 200 million people around the world have intellectual disabilities, many of whom suffer needlessly with chronic pain and disease because they lack access to basic health care.

People with intellectual disabilities are 2X more likely to die before age 50 than adults without intellectual disabilities. They die from problems that are preventable and treatable.

This happens in the U.S. and in every other country around the world. 

Even after a health need has been identified, many people with intellectual disabilities find it difficult if not impossible to get essential follow up care. And where would they go for care when over half of medical school deans and students report that graduates are not competent to treat people with intellectual disabilities?

Taking Action

Given this reality Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation stepped up to change the game and assure that people with intellectual disabilities could get health care in their communities year-round.

We began by partnering with Special Olympics. Why Special Olympics?

  • It has a vast global network in place to reach more people with intellectual disabilities than any other organization.
  • It is the world's largest global public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • It maintains the largest global database in existence of health information for people with intellectual disabilities.

We also have supported several model community-based innovative centers that promote inclusive health:

  • Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College - this new model of inclusion, fitness, and wellness for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It will open in Fall 2019. Tom Golisano made a gift of $7.5 million toward the new center.
  • Golisano Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness Center - will open in 2019, and provide the greater Rochester community a new, critically-needed home base for child and adolescent behavioral health services. Tom Golisano contirbuted $5 million for this ciritcally needed center.
  • Golisano Autism Center Rochester - will expand and enhance autism services to serve the more than 10,000 people diagnosed with autism in the Greater Rochester and surrounding areas. Tom Golisano and the Foundation donated $3.5 million to build the new center, wich will open in 2019.
  • Golisano Center for Community Health - opened in 2016 and provides comprehensive integrated health care services to adults with special needs and their families, breaking down barriers to care, preventing individuals from falling through the cracks and helping them live with dignity. It was built with the support of a gift of $3.5 million from Tom Golisano.

With vision, commitment and collaboration with the right partners, you get results.

Timeline and Key Events

2010

First and Largest Regional Train the Trainer Program Held

Clinical Directors for Healthy Athletes at NY Train the Trainer Event

The Golisano Foundation partnered with Special Olympics in 2010 to host first regional "Train the Trainer” event, increasing the number of Clinical Directors to screen Special Olympic athletes and forging partnerships with local health care providers.

“This was the largest regional Healthy Athletes training program ever held, and we hope it will serve as a model for future such events throughout the United States,” said Ann Costello, Director of the Golisano Foundation. 

With the help of the Golisano Foundation, 40 doctors and other health care professionals from New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia, California, and Washington, D.C., were trained through the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program to screen individuals with intellectual disabilities participating in Special Olympics events.
 
Special Olympics senior clinicians led the training September 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Rochester, and Saturday September 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Thornell Farms Park, where 500 Special Olympics athletes participating in the Special Olympics New York Fall Classic Game and the majority received free health care screenings. 

  • In addition to the Golisano Foundation’s support, Tom Golisano made a personal donation of $150,000 to Special Olympics at a dinner following training on September 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Radisson. 
  • Golisano also threw out the ceremonial ball during the Games’ opening ceremonies on Saturday.

“I am pleased to play a role to enhance the Healthy Athletes program and am confidant that Special Olympics International will continue to break new ground, expand access and improve the quality of health care for individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said Golisano. “I look forward to great progress over the next few years on this important and exciting initiative.”
 
Tom Golisano Cheers on Special Olympics athletesExpanding training and increasing the number of health care professionals capable of providing screenings at Special Olympics events will help meet the unmet healthcare needs of people with intellectual disabilities, and ensure that athletes can receive follow-up care. 
 
Data at the time (2010) revealed through Healthy Athletes painted an overwhelming need for comprehensive health care among people with intellectual disabilities.  

  • More than 75% of Special Olympics athletes in U.S. were overweight or obese.
  • 30% of Special Olympics athletes failed hearing tests – a rate more than six times the national average;
  • 35% had untreated vision issues, could not see well, and/or needed new or different prescription glasses, while 6% had serious untreated eye diseases;
  • 35% of athletes had obvious tooth decay in their molar teeth, up to 50% have obvious gum infections, 12% reported being in pain at the time of the exam, and 15% required urgent care;
  • 20% had evidence of osteoporosis or osteopenia (weakened bones). 

2012

Healthy Communities is launched with gift of $12 Million from Tom Golisano to Special Olympics to take health care into the communities where people live

Tom GOlisano Announces $12 Million gift to Special Olympics at CGI

Photo Gallery - $12 Million Gift to Special Olympics to Launch Healthy Communities

2012 was a pivotal year for people with intellectual disabilities.

On September 13, 2012 at the Clinton Global Intiative Annual Meeting in New York City, Tom Golisano announced his initial gift of $12 million to launch Healthy Communities, an initiative to provide access to health care for people with intellectual disabilities into the communities where they live and beyond episodic health screenings at sports events.

Healthy Communities takes the principles of the Healthy Athletes program and expands them from a series of single events to a steady presence in the lives of our athletes and their families that includes a focus on follow-up care, wellness opportunities, access and education. This was the largest single gift ever received by Special Olympics.

What started with a series of conversations with Tom and Special Olympics (SO) Chairman Tim Shriver, has grown to become a movement that is advancing inclusive health in many communities around the world. It began with a pilot that included six US states (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York) and eight countries (Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand and Kazakhstan). From remote villages in rural Malawi, to small towns in Peru, to top universities across the world to clinics in New York and Kansas, Healthy Communities began to transform the way communities, clinics, governments, businesses and sports address health and wellness for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Healthy Communities was built on SO Healthy Athletes screening program, which has been highly successful providing health examinations for athletes at competitions but had limited ability to connect athletes with year-round quality health care. 

It marked the start of an entirely new health programming model for Special Olympics, Healthy Communities.

This was not an easy task in any respect. But we took a highly strategic approach and focused on four key areas:

1. Infuse expanded health and wellness services, including those focused on diseases of extreme poverty, into all Special Olympics’ worldwide, year-round events & programming.
2. Create local Healthy Community networks for health providers engaged in Special Olympics' health work.
3. Create global Healthy Communities coalition of leading universities, businesses, NGOs & governments that supports SO's health work & increases access to health resources & services through macro-level action.
4. Develop world class bio-informatics to monitor health outcomes for people with ID to measure progress, inform public policy leaders, and demand health justice worldwide.

The results of the pilot were impressive.

  • Follow-up care began to be available in people’s communities.
  • Partnerships were created to leverage the expertise and resources needed to reduce barriers to care and provide an opportunity to raise awareness and engage volunteers.
  • Underserved rural areas expanded health exams for athletes and others with ID.
  • Universities around the world began to change curricula to train the next generation of health care professionals to care for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Technology and electronic health data collection was being used to allow for easier registration of athletes into the public healthcare system.


2015

$25 Million Gift from Tom Golisano Will Help Expand Healthy Communities Globally

Presss Conference with Ann Costello Annouciung $25 Gift to Special OlympicsIn 2015 in Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Summer Games Golisano Foundation Director, Ann Costello, announced that based on the success of Healthy Communities in the first three years, Tom Golisano would contribute $25 million more to expand Healthy Communities to more places around the world, to 100 communities by 2020. This was again the largest single gift Special Olympics had received from an individual and brought Tom’s investment in increasing global access to inclusive health with Special Olympics to $37 million.

The progress continues in more than 80 Healthy Communities programs now active in 54 countries on 6 continents around the world. Special Olympics is engaging with more universities to better prepare their students to meet the needs of people with intellectual disability. Now 84% of health providers feel better prepared to treat people with ID as a result of volunteering with Special Olympics.

The health of Special Olympics athletes is a key component of Special Olympics 2016-20 Strategic Plan. As part of the focus on improving athlete performance, Special Olympics is expanding its year-round focus on health and wellness programming. Special Olympics will be expanding its health program with the all-pervading goal of more inclusive societies where athletes are equipped to achieve their strongest performances on and off the field.

Special Olympics Programs are taking the next step to becoming Healthy Communities by implementing new three-year grants to focus on expanding their health work and impact. The Programs include: Arkansas, Australia, British Columbia, China, Connecticut, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Egypt, Florida, Hawaii, Kenya, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Samoa and Uganda.

Healthy Communities is demonstrating that health remains a priority for the Special Olympics movement.

2016

Recognizing Health Champions - Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards Launched in 2016

Golisano Global Heathcare Award Winners 2016

In 2016 in Austria at the Special Olympics World Winter Games we recognized the extraordinary results achieved with the first Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards

The Golisano Health Leadership Awards recognize health champions - leaders and organizations - that are making a significant contribution to equal access to health, fitness and/or wellness for people with intellectual disabilities. The awards also promote awareness for the progress and extraordinary efforts toward fulfilling the goals, values, and mission of Special Olympics health program. This is the highest Special Olympics honor for health partners. There are four primary goals for these awards, distributed by local Special Olympics Programs: 1. Recognize those who are making a significant contribution to increasing access to inclusive health, fitness and/or wellness in the communities in which people with intellectual disabilities live. 2. Raise overall awareness of the issues of health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. 3. Inspire, motivate and recognize stakeholders, while engaging the broader health-focused Special Olympics audience to seek to replicate areas of success and key initiatives and partnerships. 4. Honor individuals and organizations committed to equitable health services for people with intellectual disabilities.

2017 Global Reach Report

Global Health Program is Targeting Health-care Disparities for People with Intellectual Disabilities

SOGlobalReach2017

Special Olympics has the unique ability to reach people with intellectual disabilities around the world, making it possible to target health-care disparities and bring them improved health.

  • In 2017, there were 195,471 Healthy Athletes screenings worldwide.
  • There have been more than 2.1 million screenings since Healthy Athletes began in 1997.
  • More than 240,000 healthcare professionals have been trained to date.
  • More than 135 countries have held Healthy Athletes events.
  • 18 Special Olympics Programs received Healthy Community status – and 51 more programs are in progress.
  • 33,130 health care professionals volunteer.

Current Healthy Communities

Healthy Communities locations are marked in purple: Arizona, Arkansas, Bangladesh, Florida, Hawaii, Kazakhstan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Mauritius, Mexico, Ontario, Paraguay, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, Wisconsin

Healthy Communities Map 2018

Inclusive Health

Partnering with Special Olympics, each day we are opening new doors to inclusive health around the world. Our goal is to to achieve 100 Healthy Communities worldwide and improve access to quality health for 11 million people with intellectual disabilities by 2020.

Reaching both of these targets requires changing, influencing and strengthening communities, governments, organizations and the healthcare system. Special Olympics is doing this through influencing the reform of national health systems, training healthcare providers, developing partnerships to connect Special Olympics athletes to follow-up care in their communities and through partnering with organizations, governments and companies to make inclusive health changes a priority.

Programmatic Activities as of April 2018

Healthy Athletes Reach

Inclusive Health Related News & Resources

Special Olympics Health

Special Olympics Health Case Statement

Center for Inclusive Health - a virtual hub for health care providers, fitness and wellness professionals, professional associations, and businesses to find resources to become more inclusive

Inclusive Health Principles and Strategies: How to make your Practices Inclusive of People with Intellectual Disabilities

Special Olympics Reach Report 2017

American Academy of Devellopmental Medicine and Dentistry

Health Research

Health and Intellectual Disability

Healthy Communities

Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards

RIT honors Tom Golisano’s contributions as Champion for Global Health in new exhibit -- Golisano Archives exhibit shares philanthropist’s commitment to Special Olympics and empowering people with intellectual disabilities

What Health Care Can and Should Be -- Ann Costello, on Huffington Post

Special Olympics Receives Largest Gift in History from Tom Golisano - $25 million to expand Special Olympics' health services globally for people with intellectual disabilities, a population that lacks access to adequate healthcare and faces significant health disparities, July 2015

Tom Golisano Gives $12 million to Expand Special Olympics Health Services Worldwide

Photos: Planing for Healthy Communities in Florida

Special Olympics Annual Health Report Apr 1, 2017 - Mar 31, 2018

Healthy Communities Year 2 Progress Report

Healthy Communities Year 1 Progress Report

Latest Updates and News - Special Olympics Healthy Communities Web site