Health Messengers

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. The Special Olympics Health Messenger program was born out of this notion of participation. In order to create more effective public health programs, improve health systems and engage communities to support the health of people with intellectual disabilities, people with intellectual disabilities must have leadership roles in the health system.

Special Olympics Health Messengers are athletes who are trained to serve as health and wellness leaders, educators, advocates and role models within their Special Olympics communities, as well as the community at large. They are leading their teams, families, friends and communities to pursue healthy lifestyles, and are advocating for healthcare providers and governments to adopt inclusive policies around health, wellness services, education and resources for people with intellectual disabilities.

Since the Health Messenger program launched in 2016, nearly 4,000 athletes have been trained to be health leaders and advocates. Read more about some of their stories below:

Health Messengers
Gilmour Borg in a blue suite and red tie standing speaking behind a podium and in front of the Special Olympics logo backdrop.
Malta
Athlete Kiera Byland with her medals won from competing in the Special Olympics World Games
Great Britain
Kayla Cornell smiling selfie.
Michigan, USA
Massachusetts, USA
Colorado, USA
Florida, USA
Maryann Gonzales standing in front of a track and field with awards draped around her neck.
Florida, USA
Adam Hammer smiling in front of a backdrop of the Special Olympics logo.
Hungary
Indonesia
Missouri, USA
Kisha Morgan smiling in a selfie.
Mississippi, USA
Alaska, USA
Pakistan
Kurtis Siu ice skating.
Hong Kong
Yi-Hsuan Tseng holding up two gold and one bronze medal.
Chinese Taipei
Lize Weerdenburg in a red suite jacket and black shirt with white spots standing behind a podium speaking.
Netherlands
A Health Messenger is a Special Olympics athlete who has been trained to serve as a health and wellness leader, educator, advocate and role model within their Special Olympics communities and the community at large.
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.
2 Min Read
Hassam, wearing a blue jacket, poses for a photo while holding a certificate from the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi.
How a Love of Football Helps Hassam Set Goals and Accomplish Them
1 Min Read
Stephanie flexing her biceps.
Stephanie Ching has been a tenacious Special Olympics athlete for more than 25 years and has the medals to prove it!
1 Min Read