Champions for Inclusive Health leading the charge for critical change

Special Olympics Health Messenger Jennifer Ferrier
Special Olympics Global Health Messenger Jennifer Ferrier of Victoria speaking at the 2018 Champions for Inclusive Health Summit.

Special Olympics BC athletes, volunteers, and families have done a lot in recent years to improve athlete health, as have dedicated Healthy Athletes volunteers. But it won’t be possible to change the dramatically higher rates of health problems faced by individuals with intellectual disabilities without systemic changes.

To that end, in 2017 SOBC initiated the Champions for Inclusive Health Stakeholder Coalition, working with key partners who dedicated time and energy to this important issue.

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The Champions for Inclusion Health initiative began with two summits held in the Lower Mainland in 2017 and 2018, followed by a key working meeting in January 2019, which brought together a wide range of people and agencies who impact the health of individuals with intellectual disabilities. The summits attracted the involvement of the very people who can together change the game for the too-often-forgotten population of individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

The Champions for Inclusive Health partners are committed to ensuring that this population will not continue experiencing dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death. They agreed on a mission to end the harm and unequal conditions experienced by individuals with intellectual disabilities in B.C., and establish impactful resources, expertise, and best practices that can encourage other jurisdictions to follow B.C.’s lead. 

In the January 2019 meeting, the diverse group of stakeholders met to establish a formal structure for the coalition and identify a path to create change. Out of this meeting, the group agreed to establish a backbone, a steering committee, and six working groups that met to identify key issues and develop actions for change in their respective fields. 

The working groups focused on achieving measurable change in the following fields: measurement, wellness, professional education and support, population support and resource access, public and private policy, and communications. 

2018 Champions for Inclusive Health Summit
Stakeholders in 2018 including MLA Ravi Kahlon and Shane Simpson, then Minister of Social Development.

In addition to the provincial engagement, Champions for Inclusive Health regional meetings were hosted in Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, and Victoria in order to engage significant regional stakeholders.

Sadly, despite many early successes, the COVID-19 pandemic eventually caused the work of the coalition to be placed on hiatus. But research continues to build #InclusiveHealth, and Special Olympics BC is reigniting communication between the stakeholders who believe in ending the devastating health inequality faced by people with intellectual disabilities in our province.

The list of agencies and stakeholders involved in this important work is long and influential in this field, including provincial government ministries, health authorities, self-advocates, non-governmental organizations, school boards, parks and recreation, municipal governments, research institutions and practitioners.  

If you are active in health and passionate about helping people with intellectual disabilities, please contact

If one of your service providers is outstanding and really committed to ensuring quality care for individuals with intellectual disabilities, please share this info and encourage them to get involved.  

Special Olympics BC’s impactful health work would not be possible without the support of valued sponsors including the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, and the ongoing support of our provincial partners and fundraising events

Research generated by SOBC Health and the Coalition

Guidelines for Inclusive Policy-Making (July 2021)
Tips for Primary Care Providers (Nov 2021)
COVID-19 and People with Intellectual Disabilities in B.C. (July 2022)

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Learn more about SOBC health initiatives

Learn more about Special Olympics International health initiatives