Special Olympics Joins Panel Discussion at UNGA to Champion Inclusive Health

Universal Health Advocates Commit to Ensure Children and Persons with Disabilities – The Mission Billion in Universal Health Coverage – Are Not Left Behind
A group of panelists in a group photo
The Missing Billion in UHC: Children and Persons with Development Delays and Disabilities, September 24, 2019.

New York, NY. 26 September 2019 – Special Olympics and leading Universal Health advocates including First Spouses, representatives from NGOs, academic institutions and the United Nations, joined a panel discussion event during the 74th United Nations General Assembly earlier this week. This event comes on the heels of UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcoming the UN Political Declaration on universal health coverage, which commits countries to advance towards full coverage for their citizens in four major areas around primary care. Co-sponsored by the governments of the Philippines and Qatar, UNICEF, Special Olympics, the H&M Foundation and Autism Speaks, the event highlighted the critical need for inclusive health for children and persons with disabilities, those who are the missing billion in universal health coverage.

Around the world, there are one billion people who live with disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities often face higher healthcare needs, more barriers to accessing services and less health coverage, resulting in worse conditions.

“Fifteen percent of the world’s population lives with a disability and many of these people are children and young people,” said Stefan Peterson, Associate Director, Health, UNICEF. “Universal Health Coverage can only be achieved if we include their needs.”

Currently, the global health community is working toward two, ambitious goals for 2030: (1) the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, and (2) the World Health Organization’s target to ensure one billion more people benefit from Universal Health Care (UHC), where they are protected from health emergencies and enjoying better health and well-being. The global health community has committed to reach the unreached through these global efforts. During the panel discussion, universal health advocates discussed new initiatives on improving the health of children with developmental delays and disabilities and called for strengthening accountability mechanisms to ensure this population is not left behind.

“I’m here to bring forth a new commitment to not only a goal but an urgent need that the world has been facing and now formally addressing--the need for universal health coverage, “ said David Evangelista, President & Managing Director, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia. “Universal means we will invest in doctor training, innovate the medical community and make it accessible to everyone. Stigma must be history.”


Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO
Stefan Peterson, Associate Director, Health, UNICEF
Lucy Meyer, Official Spokesperson, UNICEF USA & Special Olympics Partnership
Devora Kestel, Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, WHO
David Evangelista, President & Managing Director, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia
Dr. Francisco Duque III, Secretary of Health, Republic of the Philippines
Kim Jung-Sook, First Lady of the Republic of Korea
Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians, UN SDG Advocate
Akie Abe, spouse of the Prime Minister of Japan
Tamara Vucic, First Lady of Serbia
Michelle Bolsonaro, First Lady of Brazil
Dr. Hans Forssberg, Professor of Child Neurology, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Global CEO & Director General, AMREF Health Africa Group
Kapimbire PimbiiKaura, parent of a child with a disability
Dr. Salvador Ramirez Gallegos, self-advocate, person with a disability, Mexico
Dr. Ola Abu Alghaib, Manager, UNPRPD Technical Secretariat
Thomas W. Frazier, PhD, Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks
Dr. Mohamed Hamad Al Thani, Director of Public Health Department, Ministry of Public Health, State of Qatar
Diana Amini, Global Manager, H&M Foundation

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 190 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, 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 www.SpecialOlympics.org.

Christy  Weir smiling.
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