For some, it is the first medical appointment of their lives. The introduction of Special Olympics MedFest events in seven new countries in Africa is changing the views of health care providers, and the level of care for their populations with intellectual disabilities.
More than 150 athletes have received this specialized health screening, and some referred for follow up consultations, from a dozen certified MedFest clinical directors. These events have so far reached the borders of:
Special Olympics Burundi,
Special Olympics Congo,
Special Olympics Guinea-Bissau,
Special Olympics Equatorial Guinea,
Special Olympics Madagascar,
Special Olympics Mozambique,
and Special Olympics Niger.
Special Olympics MedFest was created to offer the physical exam that all athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports programming. Led by volunteer physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and medical students, the MedFest screening consists of the following stations: medical history, height and weight, blood pressure, cardiology test, musculoskeletal test, orthopedic tests, abdominal evaluation, and a check out station.
These new Programs were founded thanks to the support of the Special Olympics World Games 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Fourteen new Founding Committees in Africa Region were among the 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches participating.
Special Olympics Guinea-Bissau shared that the country has very few medical professionals available in-country. At their first MedFest screening, in most of the cases, athletes had never had a medical appointment before in their lives. This was made possible by a new partnership with AIDA and AMEV — a voluntary medical professional association.
MedFest is a highly flexible program that can occur by itself, or in conjunction with other Healthy Athletes disciplines. MedFest screenings have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have significant health concerns that are preventable and/or treatable. Research show that 60% of adult Special Olympics athletes are overweight or obese, 31% of Special Olympics athletes under the age of 20 are overweight or obese, and 22% had at least one previously undiagnosed medical condition.