Battling the health crisis faced by individuals with intellectual disabilities, who are still far too often forgotten and left behind by the health system, Special Olympics BC runs year-round health initiatives to help improve health and access to care.
In 2022, we continued our efforts to create #InclusiveHealth throughout B.C., thanks to the dedication of athletes, volunteers, and supporters around the province!
Here in B.C., Special Olympics BC’s health work is made possible by the ongoing support of our provincial partners and fundraising events, including the leading role of the Government of British Columbia, Government of Canada, and Methanex. Our barrier-breaking initiatives were also supported by the Special Olympics International 2022 Health Impact Grant, with the help of the Golisano Foundation.
These are the four pillars of the global Special Olympics Health program:
- Play to Prevent | Ongoing Prevention and Fitness: Health promotion, physical activity and fitness, child development, social-emotional health, nutrition, and prevention across a lifespan approach, from Young Athletes to older adult athletes.
- Assess to Address | Early Detection and Care Coordination: Health screenings and coordinated follow-up care for Special Olympics athletes.
- Train to Treat | Training the Health Workforce to Treat and Serve People with ID: Curricula and training to equip the healthcare workforce to better serve, and be more inclusive of, people with ID.
- Rise Up to Reform | Inclusive Health Advocacy for Improved Health Outcomes: Innovative, targeted policy change at the local, national, regional, and global levels to elevate the voices and health needs of people with ID.
In 2022, Special Olympics BC athletes, volunteers, and partners achieved advances in all of these pillars in order to change the game for the health of people with intellectual disabilities.
In 2022, SOBC delivered these health programs and opportunities:
- Virtual health education events throughout the year, ranging from virtual Special Smiles screenings to Family Health Forums on mental wellness for families and caregivers. These welcoming and supportive events shared helpful health information with many athletes and supporters around the province.
- In-person Healthy Athletes screenings, including the first-ever MedFest screenings to be hosted in B.C.! Held in June 2022 at the SOBC – Abbotsford soccer tournament, the MedFest screenings benefitted 47 athletes and identified acute issues in three athletes, including irregular heartbeats and very low blood oxygen levels, resulting in referrals for important followup care.
- Health Messenger training to help athletes educate peers and advocate in their communities. Click here to read about the leadership of SOBC Health Messengers, and get excited for upcoming Health Messenger training opportunities in 2023!
- Club Fit programs and functional testing, which help athletes build their fitness, sport performance, and overall health. Club Fit programs are very popular with hardworking athletes!
- Fit Families & Friends programs both virtually and in person, helping athletes and supporters stay active and connected in the summer months.
- A study on COVID-19 and people with intellectual disabilities in B.C. to draw the health community's attention to these issues. Please click here to read and learn more.
- Youth programs that help children with intellectual disabilities develop vital motor, sport, and social skills and “play to prevent” health challenges.
- Relationship-building with medical professionals and students so they learn how to best support patients with intellectual disabilities.
- Work with partners in the Champions for Inclusive Health Stakeholder Coalition that is dedicated ending the health inequality faced by people with intellectual disabilities, creating barrier-breaking resources like their Inclusive Policy-Making Toolkit and Tips for Primary Care Providers.
- Development of the Inclusive Health Care Provider list, to help ensure people with intellectual disabilities can find health practitioners who have experience in welcoming and supporting them.
Huge thanks to all of SOBC’s provincial partners who help make our vital ongoing health work possible. Sincere thanks also to all the volunteers and athletes throughout the province who achieved important progress this year!
Let’s all keep up the important work together to ensure people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunity to be healthy as everyone else. Everyone can help build #InclusiveHealth!