August 15, 2019

Ann Costello Visits Kenya to See Healthy Communities in Action

Ann Costello with a Kenyan child looking at a smart phone

Ann Costello visited Kenya in August(13-15) to see the progress of Special Olympics Healthy Communities initiative, which is expanding access to inclusive health for people around the world with intellectual disabilities. Healthy Communities builds on Special Olympics successful Healthy Athletes program focusing on year-round access to health care and wellness. It was launched in 2012 and expanded in 2015 with gifts of $37 million from Tom Golisano and has improved the health of people in Kenya with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics Kenya has developed partnerships with many organizations to bring prevention and wellness opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities (ID), to train health providers and health workers and to develop resources, services and policies that allow people with ID in Kenya to access quality health services.

Her visit included:

  • Meeting with head of mental health and intellectual disabilities in the Ministry of Health, who is the government’s head psychiatrist and leading the quality rights. They explored how Special Olympics Kenya can lead the roll-out of quality rights among persons with intellectual disabilities and others.
  • Quality Rights Background: In February 2019 the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Quality Rights process was launched in Ghana. Special Olympics worked arduously to include people with Intellectual disabilities in the content of this extensive human rights based training program, which is being delivered in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Ghana to equip people in Ghana to advocate for rights around the care and social inclusion of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. WHO’s Quality Rights Ghana will reach over 5,000 people in 2019 including health workers, policy makers, SO coaches, clinical directors, family members, teachers, and other alternative health service providers, like religious and traditional healers. Of importance, SO athletes, mental health service users, and people who have experienced mental health challenges will also be trained so that they can understand their rights and advocate for their fulfillment. SO will train 90 Health Messengers, who will participate in training other athletes and be involved in advocacy sessions. This is in line with the principle of “nothing about us without us.” The project will reach up to 50,000 people by the end of 2020, and is expected to raise the profile of people with ID and their needs and rights, increase accessibility of health services by reducing discrimination and other human rights violations, and foster the acceptability of health care through disability-sensitive service provision. Preparations for implementing Quality Rights in Kenya in Year 4 are under way.
  • Visited a Healthy Community site of Kajida County, about one hour outside of Nairobi. Ann attended a Family Health Forum, viewed wellness programming, and talked with teachers who are involved in Healthy Communities. The visit concluded with visit to the home of person with ID and their family benefitting from the programming.
  • Visited a Healthy Community site within Nairobi – Kawangwar, observing Young Athletes and meeting with community health workers from Nairobi County. Athlete leader and Health Messenger Joshua Agare joined Ann for the visit.
  • Visited the Lions Club Sight Eye Hospital, (2019 Golisano Global Health Leadership Award recipient ) to tour the hospital and learn more about their diabetes work. Dr. Manoj Shah, who received the award from Ann in Abu Dhabi at the Special Olympics World Ganes led the tour. Two athletes were there receiving services.

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