World Health Day

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As people across the globe recognize World Health Day today, Special Olympics will begin expanded health programming for people with intellectual disabilities, a population that lacks access to adequate healthcare and faces significant health disparities. This new programming is made possible through a $25-million commitment to Special Olympics from the Golisano Foundation. Special Olympics’ is working toward the tipping point for inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities.

 

People with intellectual disabilities are part of one of the largest and most medically undeserved disability groups in the world. Millions with intellectual disabilities lack access to quality health care and experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death in every country around the world. In developing and developed countries alike, people with intellectual disabilities are consistently one of the most marginalized population subsets – a status that comes with horrific health outcomes. A 2013 United Kingdom study found that people with intellectual disabilities were more than twice as likely to die before the age of 50 than the general population. Barriers that contribute to this include stigma and discrimination, insufficient or lack of health care provider training, over-attributing symptoms to a particular condition which results in conditions being untreated and undiagnosed, limited prevention education reaching this population, limited self-advocacy, cultural beliefs, increased poverty and poor enforcement of laws and policy to protect this population. For example, one Special Olympics study found that 52 percent of medical school deans and 56 percent of students reported that graduates were “not competent” to treat people with intellectual disabilities.

Over the past 19 years Special Olympics has grown to become the largest global public health organization specifically focused on people with intellectual disabilities. Led by the Golisano Foundation’s support, and that of other organizations globally and locally including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Special Olympics is making strides for ensuring inclusive health and working with corporations, organizations, universities, hospitals, and health care professionals to do more to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are not excluded from the health care systems within their communities.

Since 1997, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, also supported by Golisano, has been providing free examinations and education for people with intellectual disabilities across the areas of audiology, dentistry, health promotion, optometry physical exams, physical therapy and podiatry. The award-winning Healthy Athletes program and the more than 135,000 health care professionals trained on the specific health care concerns of people with intellectual disabilities have provided more than 1.6 million free examinations to Special Olympics athletes worldwide in more than 130 countries. Now, Special Olympics Programs are working toward a focus on year-round inclusive health programming – called Healthy Communities – that takes the tenets of the Healthy Athletes events and includes them into year-round programming opportunities for athletes. Special Olympics Program is working toward recognition as a Healthy Community.

“I am Happy to Be Me”

I am Happy to Be MeSpecial Olympics Louisiana athlete, Sean Adams recently published a book titled, “I am Happy to Be Me”. In the book Sean talks about what life is like, growing up with Down Syndrome. He hopes that his book will show the world that people with intellectual disabilities can accomplish anything they set their mind to! Sean is a wealth of knowledge, strong Christian, great public speaker and wonderful member of the Special Olympics Louisiana family!

To check out Sean’s book, buy a copy or download it digitally, check out Tate Publishing’s Website.

Congratulations to one of our very own

Glenn Drude Options breakfastSpecial Olympics Louisiana staff member and previous athlete, Glenn Drude, Jr. was recognized today by Options, Inc. for his outstanding work in Special Olympics Louisiana. He was honored at a breakfast this morning along with several other individuals with intellectual disabilities in the community who have been employed for several years. Glenn currently holds the title as the individual who has been serving the community the longest, 26 years! Glenn is the Office Assistant here at the Special Olympics Louisiana State Office and does a variety of jobs. We are proud of his accomplishment and honored to have him in our family.

It’s NOT just WORK…

Kathy Martinez, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, recently wrote a great story titled Stepping Up to the Plate on The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Labor. She remarks about the connection sports and employment have on one another, and mentions the impact Special Olympics has had on the two…

“…sports are ingrained in the American psyche; they’re a cultural force.  …they have the power not only to bring people together for fun and recreation, but also to shape societal attitudes.”

“Of course, sports can also have a big impact at the individual level, especially when it comes to youth. There is a powerful relationship between extracurricular activities and employment. According to data from Special Olympics, the largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities and a founding member of the ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment, 52 percent of adult Special Olympics athletes in the U.S. are employed, and half of those are in competitive employment. Compare that against the estimated employment rate for adults with intellectual disabilities in general, which is 10 percent.” Read the full article here

Remembering a Friend

Special Olympics athlete Ricardo Thornton holds the Flame of Hope with Nelson MandelaAfter becoming President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela also became a supporter of Special Olympics.

Mandela, along with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, worked with Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Special Olympics to reach out to people with intellectual disabilities and their families as well. Through this joint venture, new opportunities were given to a population that had long been ignored.

In the words of Mandela, “Only 50 years ago persons with intellectual disabilities were scorned, isolated and neglected. Today, they are able to attend school, become employed and assimilate into their local community.”

Special Olympics Louisiana, President and CEO, Pat Carpenter Bourgeois remarks, “I am saddened by the news of the death of Nelson Mandela. He was an advocate for Special Olympics, attended many events, and renewed hope in people with disabilities who came to Special Olympics through his involvement. We are fortunate to have had him as a part of our Movement. He will be missed by us and leaders around the world.”

Read Special Olympics’ tribute to Nelson Mandela

Celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2013! What can you do to observe it?

Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for Special Olympics athletes, family members, coaches, volunteers, Program staff and supporters to focus on issues related to the inclusion of people with disabilities in our communities, in our work places, in our schools, in our media.

Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and social media campaigns to help find innovative ways and means by which people with disabilities and their families can be further integrated into their societies and development plans.

Celebrate: Plan and organize Unified sports matches or demo skills matches to showcase and celebrate the abilities and talents of people with disabilities/intellectual disabilities as agents of change and development in the communities in which they live

Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical and concrete action to include disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive policies, as well as promote public awareness to break barriers and open doors: for an inclusive society for all.

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