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Dr. Benedetto Saraceno announced as Special Olympics Global Ambassador

Dr. Benedetto Saraceno with his head resting on his had looking off into the distance.

Human rights and mental health advocate to help advance inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities.

Washington, DC – November 5, 2018: Special Olympics International (SOI) has named mental health expert Dr. Benedetto Saraceno, as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. In this role, Dr. Saraceno will advance inclusive health systems, champion human rights, and help end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.

“I am excited to be a part of the Special Olympics movement. Now is the time for health systems to become inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Saraceno, adding, “Inclusive health systems are the paradigm shift that will unlock health, education, employment, housing, and all human rights for people on the margins in communities around the world.”

Dr. Saraceno is a longtime advocate for the right to health, supporting deinstitutionalization, establishment, and reform of health services for underserved populations, including people with ID. He has served as the head of the World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and is now Secretary General of the Lisbon Institute of Global Mental Health. Under his leadership, in 2007, the WHO published the first “Atlas: Global Resources for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.”

Dr. Saraceno is renowned in the global health community for reforming health systems to make health more accessible, improving the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people around the world. He has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals, edited 15 books, and written 10 books.

An Italian psychiatrist, Dr. Saraceno is an experienced clinician. He helped establish a national network of community mental health systems in Italy and served as the director of a public residential facility for people with disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, in Milan. Dr. Saraceno has a research background, having served as director of the Laboratory of Social Psychiatry and Epidemiology at the Institute Mario Negri. He has also been influential at the highest levels of policy on mental health and non-communicable diseases at the World Health Organization, ultimately leading to mental health system reform in several countries. He is also an accomplished professor with appointments at the School of Medical Sciences at the Nova University of Lisbon and the Department of Mental Health at the University of Geneva.

“Special Olympics International is excited to announce Dr. Benedetto Saraceno as a Global Ambassador,” said SOI CEO Mary Davis. “Dr. Saraceno’s career has focused on breaking through stigma and discrimination, so he understands the obstacles we face on the road to inclusive health. His tireless determination will help increase our momentum towards ending discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.”

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 170 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

Media Contact

Rebecca Simon
Special Olympics International
Phone: (202) 824 0344