A key component of our health work is Healthy Athletes (HA), a Special Olympics programme that provides free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment. The idea is to remove the anxiety and unease people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a doctor or dentist. Between 2017 and 2018, we hosted over 300 Healthy Athletes events in one or more of eight disciplines: Fit Feet, FUNFitness, Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion, Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes Programme (also supported by Essilor and Safilo), Special Smiles, Strong Minds (emotional well-being) and Med Fest (sports medical exam). In total, over 47,000 people were involved in these screenings and 5,000 volunteers were engaged.
Healthy Communities (HC), which is made possible by the Golisano Foundation, recognises Special Olympics programmes that have achieved six criteria that build a foundation for inclusive health. It takes the principles of HA and expands them from a series of single events to a steady presence of health and wellness in the lives of Special Olympics athletes and their families. Between 2017 and 2018, nine programmes across Europe Eurasia ran HC with over 60,000 people involved (athletes, coaches, families and volunteers).
Speaking about the success of our health work in the past few years, Bjoern Koehler, Senior Manager, Special Olympics Health Programmes Europe Eurasia region, noted, “Our programmes are great advocates and drivers for improving the health and fitness of our athletes and all people with intellectual disabilities (ID). We thank all of the volunteers, coaches, families, health workers and most of all our athletes for making health and fitness a priority and moving towards inclusive health.”