Special Olympics’ focus on sport cannot be successful without an accompanied focus on health. Any athlete must be healthy in mind and body to perform and excel in his/her given sport. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) face staggering health and wellness concerns. Studies reveal that children and adults with ID have poorer overall health and have a 40% increased risk for many preventable health conditions and experience higher mortality rates as a result of higher rates of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, leukemia, thyroid disease, sleep apnea, mitral valve prolapses and intestinal obstruction.
The health disparities for this population are a result of a combination of factors:
- poorly developed and supported behaviors to promote health
- lack of access to quality health care services
- lack of ability to pay for health care services
- practitioners lack of experience working with patients with ID.
In fact, only 1 in 50 primary care physicians receive clinical training that qualifies them to treat people with intellectual disabilities.
Health disparities also arise from inaccessible physical environments, social assumptions and prejudices, as well as inflexible policies and procedures that, for example, assume that everyone should be able to independently fill out forms or describe areas of concern for themselves.
To combat this health crisis, Special Olympics is committed to engage the health community as partners in educating, screening and treating Special Olympics athletes in an array of disciplines. Special Olympics also implements programs to equip and empower athletes to live healthy lifestyles. As the number one healthcare provider to this population, Special Olympics will continue to grow in its services provided to increase the health and wellness for all individuals with intellectual disabilities.