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Special Olympics Chairman Addresses Public Health Leaders at CDC

Dr. Timothy Shriver speaking behind a podium at a CDC engagement.

Dr. Timothy Shriver represented Special Olympics at the CDC Public Health Grand Rounds in Atlanta on 15 October—a monthly scientific presentation featuring the important work that CDC is doing in the United States and around the world to protect people and save lives.

In this session, the speakers focused on Addressing Gaps in Health Care for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. The CDC chose to focus on this subject because approximately 7.4 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability and report difficulty finding appropriately trained and willing healthcare providers.

A panel of four experts presented and discussed key challenges, potential solutions, and recent developments. Dr. Shriver shared staggering statistics, showing that on an average team of ten Special Olympics athletes, eight are overweight or obese, three fail a hearing test, and four need a new prescription for eyeglasses.

Dr. Shriver then focused on how we can work together to improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities and to advance inclusive health together. He invited health professionals to take a course on treating people with intellectual disabilities, called on administrators to endorse the designation of people with intellectual disabilities as “medically underserved”, and invited individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families to attend a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screening near them.

“Inclusive health means that people with intellectual disabilities get the care they need and medical professionals look past our disabilities. Small changes bring big results. For instance, [medical professionals] can talk directly to us, truly listen, and look past the disability to treat us as people rather than a diagnosis. I challenge you to consider how many individuals you have in your [care] who are like me—who want to make healthy changes, but aren’t sure where to start. How many people are waiting for the opportunity to be their best selves?”
Nell Coonen-Korte, Special Olympics Minnesota athlete and Health Messenger

This Grand Rounds session was the result of a rigorous process that took months to prepare. It welcomed an audience of clinicians, researchers, students of public health, medicine and nursing. Watch Dr. Shriver's session below.

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