The Special Olympics Health Team attended the 2023 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting to share the importance of inclusive health with public health professionals from around the world. Among the group that presented in Atlanta was Allen Tobin, a Special Olympics Missouri athlete for 27 years and Global Health Messenger. At the conference, Allen was able to share his story about the impact Special Olympics and the Healthy Athletes® program have had on his life.
Allen shared his experience participating as a panelist: “The conference was fantastic! It was filled with exciting activities, and I had the opportunity to connect with numerous individuals. The reason why it was important for me to present was to emphasize the incredible impact our Health Messengers can have. Additionally, I wanted to shed light on the reality of healthcare for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as we often face barriers in accessing proper healthcare. What truly left an impact on the attendees was when I shared my personal experience of not having insurance and how it affected my life. I also spoke about my inspiring journey with Healthy Athletes, where I received hearing aids, dentures and glasses for free.”
To date, Healthy Athletes has conducted over 1,000,000 screenings around the world, giving athletes access to the healthcare that they need. At Special Olympics Missouri, there have been over 12,000 screenings conducted, serving nearly 4,000 athletes, including Allen. Before joining Special Olympics, Allen was unable to access the healthcare that he needed. With help from Healthy Athletes, he was provided prescription glasses through Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Foundation Opening Eyes and hearing aids from Healthy Hearing partner Starkey Cares, all at no cost to him. He also made a connection with a local dentist through the Special Smiles screening, who assisted him in obtaining dentures. Allen concluded that, “Attending the conference allowed me to network with esteemed doctors and healthcare professionals, including those from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It was an incredibly enriching experience.”
Allen serves in multiple leadership roles within Special Olympics, including the Athlete Advisory Board where he and other athletes offer guidance to the Research and Evaluation team based on their lived experiences. His role as a Global Health Messenger allows him to serve as a health and wellness leader, educator, role, and advocate for other individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) regarding their healthcare needs. Through Allen’s personal story, healthcare providers and fellow athletes can gain a better understanding of Special Olympics Health programming and its impact on the lives of athletes.
“Healthy Athletes changes the lives of all athletes, including myself”