Healthy Living

In communities across the state, there is a misconception that people with intellectual disabilities, including Special Olympics New York athletes, receive the same quality of healthcare as the general public. For many reasons—including access—that simply isn’t the case.

That’s why we are working to create a culture of inclusion that will dramatically improve the health of our athletes and their peers in an environment of dignity and support for health, fitness and quality of life.

In communities across the state, there is a misconception that people with intellectual disabilities, including Special Olympics New York athletes, receive the same quality of healthcare as the general public. For many reasons—including access—that simply isn’t the case.

That’s why we are working to create a culture of inclusion that will dramatically improve the health of our athletes and their peers in an environment of dignity and support for health, fitness and quality of life.

Healthy Athletes

Healthy Athletes is a program that helps athletes improve their health and fitness so that they can have better sports experiences and improved wellness overall.

At select Special Olympics New York events statewide, we offer athletes free health, dental and vision screenings across eight disciplines. We provide free care when possible and refer athletes to local practitioners when appropriate.

Each year, about 2,000 Special Olympics New York athletes take advantage of these screenings. Through these interactions, we have learned that, among adult athletes:

  • 81% are overweight or obese
  • 42% need new glasses
  • 34% fail hearing tests
  • 22% have untreated tooth decay

Healthy Athletes is part of the Special Olympics global health program, which depends on a network of volunteers, in-kind donations and other financial support. After conducting more than 1.6 million free health screenings in more than 100 countries, Special Olympics has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

In addition, Healthy Athletes has educated more than 136,000 healthcare professionals worldwide about the needs and care of people with intellectual disabilities.

Healthy Communities

For people with intellectual disabilities, good health is a prerequisite to securing the freedom to work, learn and engage with their families and in their communities. However, this group of people is more likely than the general population to:

  • Live with complex health conditions
  • Have limited access to quality healthcare and health education
  • Miss health screenings
  • Have poorly managed chronic conditions
  • Become obese

Healthy Communities is a $12 million pilot program formed by Special Olympics International in 2012 in response to the U.S. Surgeon General’s call to address healthcare inequity among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program seeks to create communities where Special Olympics athletes and others with intellectual disabilities:

  • Have the same access to health and wellness resources as the general population
  • Can attain the same level of good health as all community members
  • Aren’t confronted with a “wrong door” to walk through when seeking care

In New York, the Genesee Region is a Healthy Communities pilot site. Its pilot project focuses on healthy weight, dental health and the use of technology to broaden the program’s impact.

Volunteer Your Medical Skills

Healthy Athletes—and, in the Genesee Region, Healthy Communities—are always seeking the involvement of dedicated medical professionals who support the program mission.

Healthy Athletes also seeks clinical directors who are licensed professionals willing to undergo training and commit to a substantial volunteer engagement with the program team.

To learn more and discuss your interests and opportunities, please contact us.