March 12, 2019

Golisano Foundation Sponsors Global Inclusive Health Forum Convening at Special Olympics World Games

Special Olympics World Games - Meet the Determined

Prior to the official opening of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 on 14 March, Special Olympics hosted a Global Inclusive Health Forum on 13 March. Over 100 global health leaders came together to ensure community health workers are adequately equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to provide quality health care for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID).

The Global Inclusive Health Forum was sponsored by the Golisano Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation.

Participants at the Global Inclusive Health Forum discussed strategies and good practices and made commitments to fund and support training 10,000 community public health workers from 20 developing nations over the next 3-5 years.

People with intellectual disabilities face significant challenges accessing quality health care, resulting in pronounced health disparities, reduced life expectancy, and violations to their access to health as a human right. The goal of Special Olympics is to facilitate the reform of health systems around the world to improve access to health for 11 million individuals with intellectual disabilities by 2020.

Dr. Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General, addressed the Forum via video about the roles of the World Health Organization and Health Ministries in creating a more inclusive health environment and ultimately ensuring that health systems and public health worker training prioritize the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“In order for Universal Health Coverage to be truly universal, health systems must make unrelenting commitments to include people with intellectual disabilities, as they are often the most marginalized group in any country,” said Dr. Tedros. “To achieve health for all people everywhere, we all have the responsibility to seek out those who have been left on the sidelines.”

“A commitment to health is the most important commitment anyone can make, whether you’re committing to your own health, the health of your community, or the health of your country,” said Nyasha Derere, Special Olympics Board Member, Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger, and Chair of Global Athlete Congress. “The commitments made at the Global Inclusive Health Forum give Special Olympics athletes like me optimism that we will level the playing field for health.”

Experts from the United Nations, clinicians, humanitarian organizations, governmental and non-governmental aid agencies, corporations, and international development organizations discussed how educating community health workers is the first step from equitable access to equitable outcomes. In addition to Dr. Tedros, speakers included:

  • Mr. Nyasha Derera, Special Olympics Board Member, Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger, and Chair of Global Athlete Congress
  • Ms. Renee Manfredi, Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger
  • H.E. Hessa Bu Humaid, U.A.E. Minister of Community Development
  • Mr. Javier Vasquez, Vice President of Special Olympics Health Programs
  • Ms. Ann Costello, Executive Director, Golisano Foundation
  • Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • Ms. Maria Soledad Cisternas, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Disability and Accessibility
  • Dr. Naresh Aggarwal, Chairperson & Lions Clubs International Immediate Past International President, Lions Clubs International
  • Mr. Nicolas Pron, Special Adviser, High Level Events, Initiatives & Partnerships, UNICEF
  • Ms. Alanna Armitage, Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, UNFPA
  • Dr. Michelle Funk, Coordinator, Mental Health Policy and Service Development, World Health Organization
  • Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is the largest sports and social inclusion event on the planet — advancing a world of full inclusion for people with ID in sports, education, health and leadership.

“People with ID are rightfully demanding quality health care in their communities and their countries, and the Global Inclusive Health Forum is elevating their voices to the people in positions of power,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman. “Special Olympics and health leaders are saying ‘we hear you!’ and the commitments made at the Forum will make health disparities history and make inclusive health a reality.”

The Forum also recognized seven healthcare organizations and professionals who are on the frontlines of bringing essential and often unprecedented health care best practices and services to people with ID. The Golisano Global Health Leadership Award honors the significant impact made by leading individuals and organizations from around the world in improving access to health for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Honorees will be recognized from Belgium, China, India, Jordan, Kenya, Paraguay, and the United States of America. The award is named for Tom Golisano, U.S. businessman and philanthropist, who has contributed $37 million to Special Olympics to advance inclusive health around the world.

“To improve access to quality health care for 11 million people with ID by 2020, health systems must become more inclusive,” said Ann Costello, Executive Director of the Golisano Foundation. “Community health workers are on the frontlines of health. They are uniquely positioned to provide inclusive care for people with Intellectual disabilities. By bringing health system leaders to the table at this forum, we are hopeful that those systems will implement the necessary change to eliminate the barriers that are preventing people with ID from getting necessary healthcare.”

Following the Forum, participants gained firsthand insight in to the practical training of student and professional health workers by touring Special Olympics Healthy Athletes, a program that trains health care providers and students in adapted screening protocols and in communicating effectively with people with ID. After a two-day Train-the-Trainer, volunteers offer athletes screenings in seven disciplines: optometry, dentistry, audiology, podiatry, physical therapy and fitness, health promotion, and emotional well-being.

Participants were also be given the opportunity to peruse the newly launched Center for Inclusive Health website and Special Olympics Online Training Portal with educational, interactive courses for coaches and health professionals.

About Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is an integral part of local, national and regional plans to expand opportunities for people of determination in line with Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s shared vision of a unified and inclusive society.

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2019. From 14 – 21 March, over 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 190 countries will participate in 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in world-class venues throughout Abu Dhabi.
The first ever Special Olympics World Games to be held in the Middle East and North Africa will also be the most unified Games in the 50-year history of the Special Olympics movement, with inclusion of people of determination with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the event.
For more information on Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in more than 190 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including Bank of America, the Christmas Records Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, ESPN, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Microsoft, Safilo Group, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, TOYOTA, United Airlines, and The Walt Disney Company. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at

Related Posts