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Initiatives

Healthy Communities - Increasing Access to Quality Health Care Worldwide for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Healthy Communities is a model global health initiative launched by Special Olympics in 2012 to reduce the severe health disparities that exist for people with intellectual disabilities both in accessing essential health services and improving their health status. With philanthropic support of $37 million from Tom Golisano and the commitment of numerous global partners and volunteers, Healthy Communities is now opening doors to year-round access to health care in people’s communities in 54 countries on six continents. Its success has been driven by creating sustainable systems and community level changes to existing healthcare infrastructure and environments where there is no wrong door to walk through and all people with intellectual disabilities can attain the same level of health and wellbeing as others.

TOM CGI SOI

Three years later, in 2015, following the success of Healthy Communities, Ann Costello, Director of the Golisano Foundation, announced that Tom Golisano would donate an additional $25 million to expand Special Olympics’ health services globally for people with intellectual disabilities. Once again this was the largest single gift received by Special Olympics. It was also Mr. Golisano's largest gift to one organization, bringing his total support for Special Olympics to more than $37 million.

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Related News

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

News - Special Olympics Receives Largest Gift in History from Tom Golisano

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

Special Olympics Health

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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. Now, Healthy Communities is clearly demonstrating that health needs to remain a priority for the Special Olympics movement.

Special Olympics Programs in eight countries (Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand and Kazakhstan) and six U.S. states (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York) are official Healthy Communities.

Across the 14 locations, 65,747 Healthy Athletes exams have been held, with 16,274 in locations where Healthy Athletes have never been held before. To date since the pilot began, these Programs have trained 6,457 health advocates (family members, coaches, athlete leaders) on important, locally relevant health topics that they can use to educate others in their community. Additionally, more than 13,000 athletes participated in wellness opportunities and 3,000 athletes received follow-up care after a Healthy Athletes exam through Programs recognized as Healthy Communities.

Special OlympicsHealth Expands in 2016

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. Thanks to the generosity of the Golisano Foundation and the largest gift in Special Olympics' history, 100 Special Olympics Programs are anticipated to activate year-round health programming - reaching Healthy Community status - by 2020.

With the launch of the new 5-year health strategy April 18, 2016, 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 Community Updates from the Field

October, 2014

Mexico Expands Partnership with UNITEC: On 27 September, Special Olympics Mexico expanded their partnership with UNITEC (Mexico University of Technology) by holding a Healthy Community Event on their campus. Throughout the day, 692 athlete exams were completed in Opening Eyes, Special Smiles, Health Promotion and FUNfitness involving 218 health care students and 71 clinicians. All of the 178 athletes who received a Special Smiles exam were provided care on site including cleanings, x-rays, fillings and/or extractions. To complement the event, a Family Health Forum was held for parents, athletes participated in Zumba classes and dentistry students performed a hilarious adaptation of "Snow White" called "Teeth White" to educate athletes on the importance of oral hygiene. Representatives from Lions Club, Colgate and the Red Cross were also on hand to provide support and education. The event was so successful that the University has committed to sign an agreement with Special Olympics Mexico to make it an annual event.

Kazakhstan Day of Disability Provides Care: On 10 October, Special Olympics Kazakhstan held an event at the Ust-Kamenogorsk Athletics Center that included a Family Health Forum, athlete health exams and athletic events. The event, that coincided with the Kazakhstan Day of People with Disability, was attended by 60 family members and 50 athletes and held in partnership with the University of Semey Medical College and the local government. In Almaty, Special Olympics Kazakhstan has also partnered with the Kazakh National Medical University that provided treatment for 10 athletes and scheduled appointments for 15 more athletes following an Opening Eyes and Special Smiles clinic held on 8-9 October.

Malaysia Trains Government Staff: On 25 October, Special Olympics Malaysia provided health training for teachers and caregivers of the government-run Community Rehabilitation Centers that provide day services for many children and youth with ID from the west coast area of Sabah. Topics included "Prevention is better than cure" by Family Medicine Specialist, Dr. Teh Chin Mey and "Guide to Healthy Eating" by Dietitian, Mr. Geoallen George.

Rochester, NY -- Eastman Dental Offers Monthly Clinic: Following the successful "Day for Special Smiles" event, the Eastman Institute for Oral Health has committed to reserving one Thursday afternoon per month to treat Special Olympics athletes and others with ID. They will rotate their dental residents through the monthly clinic so that they all have an opportunity to receive hands on experience working with this population.

Malawi Trains Optometry Students: Special Olympics Malawi provided a 3-day seminar on Intellectual Disability-specific vision care with Mzuzu College of Optometry 13-16 October. The seminar culminated in a demonstration of the Opening Eyes program for 32 children with Intellectual Disabilities from a local special school. Twenty students and various faculty members took part in the seminar, and all athletes were provided with either prescription eyewear, sunglasses, sports protective eyewear and/or referral. The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Disabilities were in attendance. Special Olympics Malawi is partnering with Optometry Giving Sight to further develop this program over the next three years.

Wisconsin Conference on Oral Health: Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) continued their membership in the Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition (WOHC) through their recent attendance at the 2014 Annual WOHC Conference. SOWI is working closely with the Coalition to ensure that individuals with ID are included in all Coalitions activities including Wisconsin's Roadmap to Improving Oral Health.

Year 2 Healthy Communities Progress Report Issued

Read Report

This report covers the Golisano grant project period from August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014.

To date, Programs participating in Healthy Communities have conducted 11,470 Healthy Athletes exams in 89 new locations, reaching athletes that have not been reached by Healthy Athletes previously. Since the start of the project, 3,409 family members/caregivers, 1,004 coaches/teachers, and 382 athlete leaders have been educated to become health educators for other athletes.

Healthy Communities have also educated 13,879 athletes on health topics, ranging from HIV in Malawi to healthy relationships and sun safety in Wisconsin. Additionally, 11,882 healthcare professionals and students have been trained on how to work with people with ID, and 23 universities have committed to making changes to their curricula to better prepare medical professionals to provide care for people with ID. Healthy Communities have developed 169 local partnerships providing a total of $4,073,883.71 in cash and value in kind.

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Year 1 Healthy Communities Report Issued

Read Year 1 Report

Announcement News Release

Latest Updates and News - Special Olympics Healthy Communities Web site

Tom Golisano donated $12 million in 2012 to expand Special Olympics’ health-related services to people with intellectual disabilities to launch the new Healthy Communities initiative.  Healthy Communities has now been launched in eight countries (Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Thailand) and six states in the U.S. (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York).  It will build upon and broaden the scope of Healthy Athletes, which has provided free health screenings and products to athletes for 15 years.

Healthy Communities’ goal is to achieve improved health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all are receiving health services and are able to reach their full potential. It will expand services to more athletes, increase partnerships with local organizations, expand the use of technology, and promote awareness of the health difficulties facing people with intellectual disabilities.

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10/11/2017