Providing Health Services Worldwide for the Most Underserved

 What if you could help 200 million people worldwide who suffer needlessly from chronic pain and disease, blindness and hearing loss, shortened life span, and other health conditions? That's what we do everyday!

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Her Excellency President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi addresses a Clinton Global Initiative forum on “From Stigma to Success: Empowering The World’s Billion People with Disabilities.” At left are Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Tim Shriver and Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne.

Healthy Athletes

At more than 1.4 million free health screening clinics in more than 100 countries, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program offers health services and information to athletes in dire need. In the process, Special Olympics has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

That record of success and benefit led United States businessman and philanthropist Tom Golisano to commit $12 million to expand Special Olympics’ health-related services and launch a new Healthy Communities initiative in 2012. The donation was announced by former U.S. President Bill Clinton at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative event in New York City, USA.

In 2013, building on Golisano’s Clinton Global Initiative commitment, Special Olympics has been expanding its reach on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities around the world. In its first year, the Healthy Communities initiative has already resulted in health clinics in 54 new locations, providing care for more than 11,000 more athletes with intellectual disabilities, and health education for nearly 10,000 athletes, family members and coaches.


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U.S. businessman and philanthropist Tom Golisano as he announces his $12 million commitment to Special Olympics.

Healthy Communities

The Special Olympics Healthy Communities initiative takes the principles of the Healthy Athletes program and expands them from a series of single events to a steady presence in the lives of our athletes and their families. Special Olympics has major offices in 170 countries around the world. Healthy Communities is being launched in seven countries (Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, and Thailand) and six U.S. states (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York). Healthy Athletes has provided free health screenings and products to athletes for 15 years.

Part of Healthy Communities also extends to educating health-care professionals. To address health-care disparities, specific training has been provided to 9,192 medical professionals, enabling them to return to their communities with increased knowledge of people with intellectual disabilities and a greater willingness to have them as patients. New partnerships have also been created with 98 organizations, universities and health-care providers at the local level to provide followup care free of charge to Special Olympics athletes.


Did You Know?

  • Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better health care than others, they typically receive sub-standard care, or virtually no health care at all.
  • Healthy Athletes has the world's largest database of health data for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Through Healthy Athletes, more than 100,000 health care professionals have been trained to treat people with intellectual disabilities. These health care professionals provide improved care to millions.
  • Special Olympics has given out more than 90,000 pairs of prescription eyeglasses to athletes who needed them.

Miracles at Every Turn

Moise Ahoussimou, a poor West African boy with an intellectual disability and next to no vision, is one example. While volunteering at Healthy Athletes, a doctor realized Moise had been blinded by cataracts. He was referred for a simple operation, and Moise left his appointment with restored sight. He saw his father for the first time. “I can see." He grabbed his father’s hand. “Hey! Dad, I didn’t know you are that tall!”

Miracles like Moise’s happen at every screening. A volunteer dentist from California, USA saved athlete Dustin Plunkett's life by finding his mouth cancer. Mariam Zakhary of Egypt, fitted with a hearing aid, heard her language and her coach for the first time in her life. Stories like Mariam’s are inspiring nations like Egypt to expand their offerings to athletes. All Special Olympics Egypt athletes now receive medical exams and follow-up care.


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At the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece, thousands of athletes were screened by health care professionals who volunteered their time for more than a week. Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz

Seven Health Areas

Healthy Athletes currently offers health screenings in seven areas: Fit Feet (podiatry), FUNfitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (better health and well-being), Healthy Hearing (audiology), MedFest (sports physical exam), Opening Eyes (vision) and Special Smiles (dentistry).

Officially launched in 1997, Healthy Athletes organizes its events in a welcoming, fun environment. Its screenings educate athletes on healthy lifestyle choices and identify problems that may need additional follow-up.

For more information on global health efforts contact Lynn Erickson, Manager of Health Communications, at +1 (202) 824 0247 or lerickson@specialolympics.org.


Healthy Athletes

We can help athletes with little or no access to health care.
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Healthy Athletes

Our healthcare focus is changing lives throughout the world.
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