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Succeeding On the Front Lines of Health Equity

Special Olympics celebrates the 2022 Global Golisano Health Leadership Award recipients

A clarion call for greater support from governments, philanthropies, and the private sector for people with intellectual disabilities who are being marginalized in society

Group of 6 people.
Ann Costello, Executive Director of the Golisano Foundation and Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics Chief Health Officer visit Special Olympics Kenya to promote inclusive health.

Event date and time: 19 September 2022 |Reception 3:00p.m. ET |Program 4:00p.m. – 5:30p.m. ET.

New York, NY, USA – People with intellectual and developmental disabilities around the world have been marginalized for generations—provided poor access to social, educational, and medical services. Their life expectancy, heart disease rates, and severe dental decay are far worse than that of the general population. Moreover, a 2022 Special Olympics study found that people with intellectual disabilities have gotten COVID-19 four times the rate of the general population.

It was in this context that ten years ago, at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the announcement was made that Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex, gave an initial gift of $12 million to Special Olympics for a global initiative on inclusive health that has since grown to $67 million in total giving. Since then, Special Olympics has trained 175,000 health professionals and students in treating people with intellectual disabilities, engaged 452,000 athletes in fitness programming, and conducted over 1.2 million free health screenings of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, resulting in a 50% reduction in urgent referrals.

On 19 September in New York City, alongside CGI and the United Nations General Assembly, Special Olympics and the Golisano Foundation celebrate a decade of global health accomplishments that have helped to create a more inclusive world for people with intellectual disabilities and will host a high-level discussion between key representatives of the private sector, governments, and philanthropy on how to give people with intellectual disabilities a fighting chance at health equity. Event speakers will include the current Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy. The event will also see the 2022 Global Golisano Health Leadership Award presented to seven trailblazers worthy of the most prestigious recognition for their work to advance health equity for people with intellectual disabilities in their countries.

“Successful and sustainable community partnerships, coupled with the power of human compassion, can usher in a world of health equity for those with intellectual disabilities. We called for this event because of the urgent need for more partners from the government, the private sector and philanthropy to step in and help us realize this global vision.”
Tom Golisano, Founder of Paychex and Chair of the Golisano Foundation
“Beyond sport, Special Olympics champions the health of people with intellectual disabilities around the world through preventive care, health screenings, training health professionals and health systems strengthening in over 100 countries, but the reality is, we need much greater support from all sectors of society, public and private if we are to realize our ambitions for a truly inclusive world for people with intellectual disabilities. We need more people like Tom Golisano who recognize the importance of this work. We thank him and, with his support, we honor those who are champions, exemplifying the ambition, the dedication and the resilience required to reform the system and foster equity for people with intellectual disabilities.”
Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics Chief Health Officer

The 2022 Global Golisano Health Leadership Awards:
The Global Golisano Health Leadership Awards recognize health champions—leaders and organizations—that are making a significant contribution to secure equal access to health, fitness or wellness for people with intellectual disabilities. The award also promotes awareness of the progress and extraordinary efforts toward fulfilling the goals, values and mission of Special Olympics Health work. This is the highest Special Olympics honor for health partners.

The 2022 Global Golisano Health Leadership Award recipients are:

Dr. Adib Jaber (Beirut, Lebanon) Dr. Jaber, an ophthalmologist and volunteer, has led the recruitment and training of local medical professionals that now provide free treatment, including surgery, for individuals with intellectual disabilities across Lebanon and the Middle East/North Africa, increasing the capacity of health systems across the Region.

General Incorporated Association of Japan Lions (Tokyo, Japan) Lions Clubs of Japan have demonstrated the true value of service by committing to sustain inclusive health initiatives in Japan. They have engaged in vision screenings, provision of prescriptive eyewear, referral to care that addresses unmet health needs and preventive care including health education to families of people with intellectual disabilities.

Rebecca Morley (Montana, USA) In her career at the Missoula City-County Health Department, Rebecca worked tirelessly to champion inclusive health for 15 years, to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities were included in mainstream public health programs. She has recruited and trained hundreds of healthcare professionals from colleges, hospitals and health NGOs to ensure the next generation of providers can deliver quality healthcare to people with intellectual disabilities. Rebecca ensured that individuals with intellectual disabilities were included in the annual BMI surveillance at local public schools for the first time. This data was then used to advocate for the elimination of using food such as sweet treats as a reward in all classrooms, which became policy for Missoula County Public Schools and remains in place today.

Sands China Ltd. (Macau) Nearly a decade ago, resort developer and operator, Sands China Ltd. launched a fund to support individuals with intellectual disabilities in accessing private medical care. To date, 325 individuals with intellectual disabilities have received treatment in dental, physical therapy, podiatry, audiology, Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture from 50 practitioners across five designated medical clinics. In addition, hundreds of Sands China employees regularly engage with Special Olympics athletes in health and fitness activities, including those to improve mental health, during and post-pandemic.

School of Odontology of the Universidad de Valparaiso (Valparaiso, Chile) For years, the dental faculty at the Universidad de Valparaiso has been training students on conducting dental evaluations and oral health education for people with intellectual disabilities. They conduct community outreach clinics for people with intellectual disabilities and address urgent referrals at the university clinic, or by their mobile unit. Over the past 2 years, more than 150 athletes with intellectual disabilities have been screened and treated for caries, root canals and the installation of implants and dental prostheses.

Dr. Serhiy Komisarenko (Vinnytsia, Ukraine) Dr. Komisarenko saw a stark need for Ukrainian athletes with intellectual disabilities to receive free health screenings, which led him to launch Healthy Athletes screenings in Ukraine and advocate for access to quality follow-up care. He worked with the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences to secure the country’s leading doctors and hospitals to provide ongoing screenings and follow-up care to individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout the country.

Speak Up Africa (Dakar, Senegal) Focused on public health and sustainable development, leading West African advocacy organization, Speak Up Africa partnered with Special Olympics Senegal to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities are included in all public health initiatives and campaigns to prevent malaria, promote vaccination, prevent COVID-19 and improve menstrual hygiene. They used their extensive network of sports stars and celebrities to amplify the message of health inclusion.


Apply for media credentials to attend the 19 September event in New York City.

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedInand our blog on Medium. Learn more at

About Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation

Tom Golisano,—entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader—is the founder of Paychex, Inc., the nation’s largest human resource company for small to medium-sized businesses, providing integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, benefits, human resources, and insurance services for more than 730,000 clients in the U.S. and Northern Europe. Mr. Golisano’s vision, perseverance, and action have left an indelible mark on a broad spectrum of issues that touch our lives - in business, healthcare, education, voter policies, politics, and tax reform. His continuing investments are helping drive the success of numerous businesses and start-ups. His personal philanthropic contributions to hospitals—including three children’s hospitals that bear his name—and numerous educational institutions and other organizations exceed $330 million. He has dedicated more than $95 million to advancing inclusive health around the world, including $67 million to Special Olympics, helping to close the significant gap in access to care for people with intellectual disabilities.  

A fierce advocate for dignity and inclusion, in 1985 Tom Golisano applied his pioneering spirit to establish the Golisano Foundation to make the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With more than $60 million in gross assets, it is one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. devoted to supporting programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities awarding about $3 million annually to non-profit organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida.  

Connect with us at @GolisanoFdn @ThomasGolisano 

Media Contact
Special Olympics
Director, Global Health Communication
+1 202 824-0332