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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The Golisano Health Leadership Awards recognize health champions—leaders and organizations—that are making a significant contribution to equal access to health, fitness or wellness for people with intellectual disabilities. The award also promotes awareness for 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.
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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
Ahead of the International Day of People with Disabilities, Special Olympics—with support from Golisano Foundation—convened global experts to discuss the policies, practices and programming that are urgently needed to eradicate the gross health disparities that exist for people with intellectual disabilities.
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Special Olympics recently partnered with Smartsheets to create a more inclusive experience for the athletes.
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8 November 2021. Two Special Olympics Florida athletes competed in the New York Marathon yesterday. Samantha Rodriquez and Chris Nikic both pushed through the cold to claim their marathon medals.
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Dr. Alicia Bazzano speaking from her home.
In this interview for QuickTake by Bloomberg, SOI Chief Health Officer Dr. Alicia Bazzano discusses why people with intellectual disabilities are at a higher risk for COVID-19, and why maintaining proper hygiene and finding ways to remain active is so important.
World Health Day
Special Olympics athletes from around the world thank our healthcare workers for their tireless efforts to keep us all safe!
All the resources for health-related programs, Healthy Athletes disciplines, Healthy Communities and tools and information needed to promote and run events.