As 6,000 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners from across the world convened in Berlin for a week of competition and camaraderie at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, global health leaders took their work to the center stage just down the road. On 19 June, Special Olympics presented its 2023 Global Golisano Health Leadership Awards—the highest Special Olympics honor for health partners—to seven individuals and organizations.
This event showcased the impactful work of Special Olympics, the Golisano Foundation, and the honorees, all working to surmount the healthcare barriers faced by people with intellectual disabilities worldwide. The event also served as a clarion call for greater support for people with intellectual disabilities from governments, philanthropies, and the private sector.
The event was hosted by Special Olympics Sargent International Global Messengers Renee Manfredi and Nyasha Derera. Speakers included Germany’s Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities Jürgen Dusel, the Golisano Foundation’s outgoing Executive Director Ann Costello, Global Ambassador Dr. Seun Adigun, and a musical celebration by Special Olympics athlete Renee Manfredi.
The seven leaders recognized for advancing health equity included:
- Dr. Hafizur Rahman from Bangladesh: "Since 2009, my dedication to Special Olympics has fueled inclusive health and sustainable wellness for athletes. Our Healthy Communities program delivers accessible and empathetic care, a milestone achievement. To advance healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities, we need collective action. Join us in building an equitable world."
- Dr. Georgina Toro from Chile: "Barriers to oral healthcare for patients with special needs exist, but together, through partnerships like the one with Special Olympics, we emphasize their right to quality and dignified care. Witness the transformation as comprehensive dental solutions boost patients' health and confidence, and uplift parents. Let's champion the cause of inclusive care, a basic right for all with intellectual disabilities."
- Dr. Lin-Chung Woung from Chinese Taipei: "As the first doctor of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes in Chinese Taipei, I've strived to enrich athletes' lives through health education for two decades. Our integrated services and partnerships have gifted athletes with world-class care. Join us in fostering a more inclusive society where love, equality, respect, and tolerance thrive.”
- Dr. Imke Kaschke from Germany: "I'm honored to receive this award, testament to our collective strides in special care dentistry for those with intellectual disabilities. We've ushered in rights to additional dental care, trained health advocates, educated thousands of healthcare providers, and built inclusive health networks. Yet, there's more to do. I hope this award and the World Games Berlin 2023 rally support for inclusive healthcare globally."
- The Kenya Medical Training College – award accepted by Dr. Kenneth Riany: "Our partnership with Special Olympics catalyzes transformative well-being for individuals with intellectual disabilities, radiating positivity to families and communities. Join us in championing inclusive health and personal growth, empowering every individual and building a society that leaves no one behind."
- Abu Dhabi Public Health Center in the United Arab Emirates – award accepted by H.E. Matar Al Nuaimi: "Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre and Special Olympics UAE have pioneered health programs like tele-health, genetic consultations, and comprehensive insurance for people of determination. My advice for those in the audience is to develop strategies that enhance these types of services, and collaborate with local stakeholders to make them sustainable."
- Dr. David Jenkins from the United States of America: "Since 2006, my work with Special Olympics Fit Feet has leveraged my expertise for optimal athlete care and performance, evolving through research, like studies on the risk of diabetic foot ulcers. My true joy lies in training future generations in care for individuals with intellectual disabilities. I urge everyone to join this rewarding cause."
Additional quotes from the event:
- Jürgen Dusel, Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities: “Democracy needs inclusion. They are two sides of the same coin. The rights of persons with disabilities are not charity – they are human rights.”
- Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics International: “We are here to develop a new medical model that does not focus on disease. We need an ability model in health care. We are transforming health care from the ground up and we are doing it with all of you.”
- Dr. Seun Adigun, Special Olympics Global Ambassador: “We must take a lesson from the incredible work that all the awardees are doing. We need to be inspired and go out into the world and share this purpose driven work to make sure everyone is included.”
Read More about this year's award recipients and watch their work in action.