Special Olympics offers free health screenings to 400 people with intellectual disabilities

Special Olympics Healthy Athletes®, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, is offering free health screenings and education to 400 people with intellectual disabilities during the World Tennis Invitational in four disciplines: podiatry, vision, physical therapy/fitness, and nutrition and healthy habits.

Athletes and volunteers were welcomed at a ribbon cutting ceremony on 13 November at Club de la Dirección General de Aduanas. Screenings are offered 13-14 November. Some of the health care professionals delivering screenings and education were trained by Special Olympics in a daylong Train-the-Trainer program on 12 November.

Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with ID are often denied basic health care and die on average 16 years younger than the general population.

“The health screenings here at Healthy Athletes are sometimes the first time a person like me interacts with health care professionals in a way that is truly welcoming,” said Alvaro Valdez, a Special Olympics athlete from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, Minister of Health, stated, “Disabilities in the context of human rights become practically imperceptible. The goal must be to respond with greater efforts in order to diminish the existing inequality gap.”

“The Pan American Health Organization is committed to achieving universal health coverage throughout the Americas,” said Mr. Antony Duttine, Disability and Rehabilitation Advisor with the Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization. “Our partnership with Special Olympics International aims to address health inequities, making health inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities, and paving the way to universal health coverage.”

When people with ID have access to health services, they also have more opportunities for education, employment, sports, and other pathways to reach full participation in society.
“Special Olympics Healthy Athletes is offering free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment to all athletes competing at the World Tennis Invitational in Santo Domingo,” said Mr. Javier Vasquez, Vice President of Health Programs with Special Olympics International. “We are driven by our athletes to improve their health so they can enjoy all the human rights guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are improving access to health in communities around the world, working with ministries of health and others to eradicate inequalities in health systems, and preventing non-communicable diseases among people with ID by improving their physical fitness.”

Additional remarks were made by Mr. Hernán Rodríguez, Health Systems & Services Advisor, Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

All 200 athletes competing in the World Tennis Invitational are offered free health screenings, along with 200 Special Olympics Dominican Republic athletes. Healthy Athletes screenings are part of a Special Olympics global target to improve access to quality health for 11 million people with intellectual disabilities by 2020. The systemic changes necessary to reach this milestone will create a tipping point for unlocking access to health for the over 200 million people with ID around the world.

Since 1997, Special Olympics has conducted over 2 million free health screenings in more than 135 countries, and trained more than 260,000 healthcare professionals and students around the world to treat 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 www.SpecialOlympics.org.

About the World Tennis Invitational

The city of Santo Domingo will host two important, global Special Olympics events, as part of the 50th anniversary of this organization’s founding. The World Tennis Invitational will gather over 200 athletes, with and without intellectual disabilities, from over 30 countries, to compete on the highest level. The Global Athlete Congress will be attended by 65 Athlete Leaders and their mentors, from 56 countries across the world, with the purpose of empowering athletes on decision-making and charting a course for the future of Special Olympics, leading the way towards a more inclusive world. Both events will take place on various venues of the capital, from November 9 through 17.

Both events are possible thanks to the official host, the Office of the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Cándida Montilla de Medina, and the support of the Ministry of Sports and Recreation of the Dominican Republic (MIDEREC).

These events will demonstrate the sports skills of the athletes while raising awareness over the social and human value of inclusion.

Media Contact

Iael Bielorai (Español)
Special Olympics Latin America
Phone: +507 214 4500

Rebecca Simon (English)
Special Olympics International
Phone: +1 202 302 9826