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, SOBC has initiated the Champions for Inclusive Health Stakeholder Coalition, working with impactful partners who are dedicating time and energy to this important issue.
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 have brought together an impressively 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 have 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 will meet to identify key issues and develop actions for change in their respective fields.
The working groups are focusing 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.
Members will be meeting at least three times a year to move this important work forward, and are already at work on mapping the available resources and reflecting on the necessary terms, conditions, and possible participants.
In addition to the provincial work, Champions for Inclusive Health regional meetings have been hosted in Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, and Victoria in order to engage the significant regional stakeholders.
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. We are grateful to everyone who is giving their time to change the game for this marginalized population.
More partners are welcome to get involved in this significant change-making work. If you are active in health and passionate about helping people with intellectual disabilities, please contact Scott Howe, Champions for Inclusive Health engagement lead, at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, the Golisano Foundation, LifeLabs, Sobeys, Westminster Savings, and the ongoing support of our provincial partners and fundraising events.