Special Olympics New York Forms Statewide Health Advisory Council to Serve Athletes, Advocate for Equity in Healthcare

New York City, NY – Special Olympics New York today announced the formation of a statewide Health Advisory Council to expand services for athletes and advocate for equal quality in healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities.

The first-of-its-kind Council is comprised of health leaders from throughout New York as well as a Special Olympics New York athlete health messenger and a coach. It will be chaired by Dr. Vincent Siasoco, Chief Medical Officer, Metro Community Health Centers, Inc.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the positive impact that Special Olympics participation has on the overall health of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “Athletes in our program are less isolated and three times more likely to participate in protocols that protect their health. But Special Olympics can only do so much. People with intellectual disabilities continue to face a stunning disparity in quality healthcare, which can be fatal.

“Special Olympics New York is proud to convene a Council of experts who are as committed as we are not only to expanding the services available to our athletes, but also to reversing the devastating healthcare trends that have hurt people with intellectual disabilities for decades.”

The work of the Council is supplemented by a new webpage dedicated to keeping the Special Olympics New York community up to date on important health information such as how to prevent diabetes and prediabetes, fighting the flu, and what a COVID-19 vaccine could mean for people with intellectual disabilities.

“Through the expertise and passion of the members on this Council, together we’ll do all we can to ensure and improve upon the care of Special Olympics athletes across New York,” said Dr. Siasoco. “Our council members will develop a statewide strategy to achieve equitable healthcare, further the mission of Special Olympics New York and its Healthy Athletes Program and review matters that affect the health, accessibility, and coordination of care for people with intellectual disabilities.”

“When the pandemic started, all my in-person training stopped,” said Special Olympics New York Athlete and Health Messenger Kathleen Maggi of New York City. “To stay active at this time, my mom and I started walking every day. At first, it was just short walks in our neighborhood. We now walk 3 miles! I have also participated in the Special Olympics New York Seasons at Home. This has all been good, but I can’t wait to get back in the pool and start training in my favorite sport again!”

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 68,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 220 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

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