Health has a substantial impact on the quality of life for people with an intellectual disability and affects each Special Olympics athlete’s ability to train and compete in sports effectively. Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with an intellectual disability are denied health services, have limited access to community health interventions, and experience a lack of targeted health interventions and programs. There is often a misconception that the poor health of people with an intellectual disability is unavoidable because it is an inherent part of their disability; yet research has shown that it is in fact a result of a breakdown in health education, health promotion, and health care that can and should be addressed.
The Healthy Athletes program is a key component of Special Olympics PEI's Healthy Communities program and is dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes. Healthy Athletes programs change the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities and all screenings are free to the athletes and occur throughout the year.
The Healthy Athletes initiative is a health screening and education program designed for people with Intellectual Disabilities. Screenings are offered in eight disciplines and are administered by volunteer health care providers throughout the year. Launched in 1997, Healthy Athletes has made Special Olympics the largest health care provider for people with Intellectual Disabilities in the world.
Learn More About the Eight Screening Disciplines:
Healthy Athlete Screenings are assessments and education stations to help address and prevent health issues for individuals with intellectual disabilities across the globe.
Designed by Special Olympics International, there are eight different health focuses (screenings) that are available at no cost for SOPEI athletes and others with intellectual disabilities. These screenings are led by Clinical Directors who are experienced health professionals in the field of the focus area, and volunteer their time to provide these services to our community.
FUNfitness is the physical therapy discipline that addresses the ongoing health needs of Special Olympics (SO) athletes. It provides athletes the opportunity to be screened for flexibility of hamstring, calf, shoulder rotator and hip flexor muscles; as well as functional strength of the abdominal and lower extremity muscles; and balance.
During these screenings physiotherapists and volunteers work with athletes and coaches to improve optimal function, prevention of or reduced risk for injury and recommend exercise strategies.
The Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program is changing lives in communities across the globe by providing comprehensive eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to Special Olympics athletes and people with intellectual disabilities in general.
After going through 12 activities, the information is reviewed and a decision is made if the athlete needs a new pair of prescription glasses or sport goggles. Through the generosity of our global corporate sponsors Essilor (lenses) and Safilo (frames), athletes choose from a selection of eye wear. Athletes who do not need any corrective lenses receive plano sunglasses, protecting the eyes against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, also provided by Safilo.
Strong Minds is an interactive learning activity focused on developing adaptive coping skills. Competition provides a natural opportunity to develop active strategies for maintaining emotional wellness under stress, such as: thinking positive thoughts, identifying and releasing stress, calming breathing techniques, and connecting with others.
MedFest was created to offer the physical exam that all athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports programming. The MedFest screenings have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes across the world have significant health concerns that are preventable and/or treatable.
Led by volunteer physicians, nurses, and physician assistants, the MedFest screening consists of: medical history, height and weight, blood pressure, cardiology test, musculoskeletal test, orthopedic tests, and an abdominal evaluation.
Fit Feet screenings evaluate ankles, feet, lower extremity biomechanics, and proper shoe and sock gear to participating athletes. Many athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain, or deformities that impair their performance.
In fact, up to 50 percent of Special Olympics athletes experience one or more preventable or treatable foot conditions that can affect their sports participation.
The Special Smiles discipline of Healthy Athletes provides comprehensive oral health care information, including offering free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques to participating Special Olympics athletes.
Special Smiles has demonstrated remarkable success in creating awareness and improving access to dental care for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The Healthy Hearing discipline of Healthy Athletes provides comprehensive hearing screenings and follow-up recommendations. The main goals of this program are to inform athletes, parents, coaches or caregivers about the detection of possible ear and hearing problems, recommend follow-up as needed, and to promote the necessity of regular ear and hearing screenings.
Health Promotion focuses on healthy living, healthy lifestyle choices, and nation-specific health issues. In addition to health education activities, Health Promotion offers screenings for bone density, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). Its goals include encouraging and enhancing healthy behaviors and improving self-efficacy and self-advocacy.
Clinical Directors are an important part of the Health Athletes team. Clinical Directors are responsible for working with Special Olympics PEI and other volunteer health professionals in coordinating Healthy Athletes screenings.
For More Information
If you would like more information or are interested in supporting this program on PEI, please contact the Special Olympics PEI office, either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 902-368-8919.