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.
800x800 - Healthy Communities Image.jpg
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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young athletes sitting in a circle with their feet together forming another circle.
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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2014 MENA Games--Family Forum
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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Doctor testing patients reflexes.
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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Athletes performing squats in a gym.
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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Six people standing in a circle with their arms around one another looking down as the photographer is looking up taking a photo of them.
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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Athlete receive an oral examination.
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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Four adults standing shoulder to shoulder for a group photo.
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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Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards recipients seated on stage: Ms. Ann Costello, Executive Director, Golisano Foundation and Nyasha Derera and Ibtihaj Muhammad both Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger at the Global Health Forum.↵↵Recipients include: Professor Kamal Bani-Hani of Jordan, Dr. Luc Marks of Belgium, Ying Feng from Hua Dong Hospital in China, Dr. Ashok Dhoble of India, Dr. Manoj Shah from The Lions Sight First Eye Hospital in Kenya, Marco Villasboa, Chairmen of the board of Special Olympics Paraguay, is accepting the award on Dr. Ferreira’s behalf, Dr. Peter Seidenberg from the United States of America.
As part of our innovative health programs worldwide, the Golisano Foundation recognizes outstanding healthcare professionals and organizations.
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Athlete being given an eye exam by a volunteer and an observer watching.
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
Athlete, Stephanie Handojo, demonstrating proper hand washing techniques to young children.
The world changed in 2020. Isolation, fear, overloaded health systems, and food insecurity continue to plague the world through the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has especially made things difficult for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Significant health disparities have been further exacerbated for those with ID. Special Olympics Health has been working hard to address these disparities.
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A row of athletes sitting on chairs applauding.
“Take care of yourself and move forward” has been Joe Wu’s motto during these last few months. No longer able to compete and to practice on a regular basis, Wu—like so many others—has turned to virtual ways to connect and uplift those around him.
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A split screen image of Ben Collins and Dr. Andreas Heinecke during a Zoom meeting.
Special Olympics Operations Specialist Ben Collins Talks with Dr. Andreas Heinecke, founder of Dialogue in the Dark, on World Sight Day 2020
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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.
International Day of Yoga
Celebrate the International Day of Yoga with Special Olympics on 21 June! Yoga is important to Special Olympics athletes around the world. It is a great way to relax before an important competition or focus before a practice.
All the resources for health-related programs, Healthy Athletes disciplines, Healthy Communities and tools and information needed to promote and run events.