Inclusive Health
Group of seven young adults standing side by side for a group photo.
Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are often denied health services and die on average 16 years sooner than the general population.

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, and in the United States in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is creating a world where people with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be healthy.

Inclusive health means people with ID are able to take full advantage of the same health programs and services available to people who do not have ID. Currently, people with ID face significant challenges in accessing quality health care and obtaining opportunities that promote fitness and wellness, resulting in pronounced health disparities and reduced life expectancy. Special Olympics’ health programming focuses on improving the physical and social-emotional well-being of people with ID by increasing inclusion in health care, wellness and health systems for Special Olympics athletes and others with ID. Learn how we are making a difference.
Since 2012, Healthy Communities have been activated in 66 countries and has yielded athlete engagement, and increased attention to health from athletes and caregivers, as well as significant increases in health systems partnerships.
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Special Olympics Young Athletes is an early childhood play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities, ages 2 to 7 years old.
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Family Health Forums provide a space for the families and caregivers of people with intellectual disabilities to engage with health professionals, community leaders and social service providers.
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In 1997, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes began offering free health screenings and education to Special Olympics athletes in a welcoming, fun environment.
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Fitness is an important aspect of the Special Olympics mission. Physical activity, adequate nutrition and hydration enhance athletes’ sports performance and improve health and overall quality of life.
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The only way to end exclusion is to have people who face these challenges daily help create the solution. People with intellectual disabilities are guiding us toward solutions in our health work.
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Ensuring that the health workforce is adequately trained and equipped to care for patients with intellectual disabilities is an important step in realizing quality health care for this population.
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Special Olympics partners with ministries and departments of health, United Nations agencies and other international organizations to create sustainable health systems and quality health services inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities around the world.
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As part of our innovative health programs worldwide, the Golisano Foundation recognizes outstanding healthcare professionals and organizations.
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Special Olympics produces yearly reports to share data we collect on the health of people with intellectual disabilities and our efforts to improve their health. See below for links to the reports.
Health news and stories of impact
Many people with intellectual disabilities live sedentary lives and have unhealthy eating habits. Data collected by Special Olympics shows that 80% of athletes with intellectual disabilities are overweight or obese.
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SAN RAMON, Calif., April 7, 2021 – CooperVision, Optometry Giving Sight and Special Olympics have come together to support the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Foundation Opening Eyes® program, which aims to strengthen vision care inclusion for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The organizations have committed $300,000 through 2023 to provide Special Olympics athletes with high-quality vision and eye health screenings, prescription eyewear and sports goggles, while also providing improved education and training for eye care professionals (ECPs) and optometry students so they are better able to meet the unique needs of this marginalized group.
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International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, occurring on 6 April, was created by the U.N. in 2013 to recognize the impact that sport can have on human rights issues. For 2021, the theme is resiliency—building back stronger and better.
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Cori’s Story
Special Olympics New York athlete Cori makes a case for inclusive healthcare.
NFL Play 60 and Special Olympics Team Up For Inclusive Fitness
The NFL Play 60 program is designed to promote healthy lifestyles for children by getting young people physically active for 60 minutes a day. Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer and Special Olympics Supporter Will Shields recently led an NFL Play 60 virtual workout for Special Olympics athletes in Kansas City.
All the resources for health-related programs, Healthy Athletes disciplines, Healthy Communities and tools and information needed to promote and run events.