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 receiving a dental examination and an assistant takes notes.
Patients with intellectual disabilities already face complications in finding and getting dental treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these challenges harder. Special Olympics Chief Health Officer shares her insights about these difficulties.
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School of Strength Athletes pose with WWE Superstar Becky Lynch
A Fitness and Nutrition Resource for People With Intellectual Disabilities
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6 individual photos arranged in a collage.
This article was authored by a Unified writing team (writers with and without an intellectual disability). Jerry Holy is Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Specialist at Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools®. Scott George is the Manager for University Engagement at Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools.
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A young girl standing in a group of people looking up at the camera.
Often, people with intellectual disabilities may not be able to express their symptoms or health problems as well as those without ID. This can lead to missed medical diagnoses, with potentially serious consequences.
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.