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: