Special Olympics Receives Up to $22.5 Million from the CDC to Build Inclusive Health Programming

One of Special Olympics‘ largest health-focused government grants in history will create a tipping point for inclusive health of people with intellectual disabilities

 Special Olympics announced today that it will receive up to $22.5 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the course of the next 5 years, including $4.5 million in 2016-17. The funds focus on creating equitable access to quality  health  care,  education,  and  services  throughout  communities  – or  inclusive  health  – for people with intellectual disabilities throughout the United States.

This award will fund the multifaceted Special Olympics health program.

  • Special Olympics  will  activate  400  partners  with  health-related  services  ranging  from follow-up  care  services  to  fitness  opportunities  for  people  with  intellectual  disabilities valued at $28 million.
  • Trained medical  professionals  will complete  260,000  free health  examinations,  including providing referrals when necessary, for people with intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics  Healthy  Athletes®  events.  An additional  55,000  health providers  and students will be trained on the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities across the United States.
  • Special Olympics  will  engage  and  train  300  health  influencers, such as governments, universities, corporate, non-profits and  key  individuals,  in providing  inclusive health programs, policies, curricula, and funding for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • More than 20 Special Olympics  Programs  will be recognized  as “Healthy  Communities” due to year-round, inclusive health and wellness programming.
  • A total of 7,000 families, coaches, athlete leaders will be trained to help support the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities

“I cannot overstate the importance of our long-term partners at the CDC, as their support has been critical to our health program’s impact and growth. When CDC first began their support of Special Olympics programming in 2002, our health program was limited and we were only able to serve the health needs of our population  at events and competitions.  Now we have grown to become  the largest global health organization  focused on people with intellectual  disabilities.  Moving forward and  with  CDC’s  ongoing  support,  we  will  continue  to  shed  light  on  the  health  disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities and leverage our evidence-based work with partnering organizations and individuals to make health systems change,” shared Special Olympics Chief Executive Officer Mary Davis.

“CDC  is  committed  to  supporting  the  health  and  wellness  of  all,  including  those  living  with intellectual  disabilities.   We are proud of the impact we have made through our partnership  with Special  Olympics  and  look  forward  to  continuing  this  important  relationship,”  says  Dr.  Coleen Boyle, Director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Special Olympics  makes  a  significant  impact  in  not  only  reducing  health  disparities  for  people  with intellectual disabilities, but also by supporting the importance of inclusion in health policies and programs for everyone.”

Special Olympics’  vision of its health program,  made possible by the Golisano  Foundation,  is to create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics’ 19 years of experience identifying  and  addressing  the  unmet  health  needs  of  people  with  intellectual  disabilities  has revealed the myriad of complex barriers to health faced by this population. The five-year award will allow  Special  Olympics  to continue  to implement  local  health  promotion  programming  such  as Healthy Athletes, activate communities and ultimately strengthen the nation’s capacity for inclusive health or equitable access to quality health care, education, and services throughout communities.

“Special  Olympics  is more  than  just sports.  Because  of Healthy  Athletes  I have  learned  to eat healthy foods. I have lost a hundred pounds by changing bad habits. I also drink water instead of pop,  exercise  and  eat  healthy  foods,”  shared  Jason  Gieschen,  a Sargent  Shriver  International Global  Messenger  and  Special  Olympics  athlete  from  Nebraska  who  had  a  cyst  in  his  eye removed, wisdom teeth extracted and shoe size corrected because of Healthy Athletes. “Special Olympics helps me live a healthy lifestyle.”

People with intellectual disabilities are part of one of the largest and most medically underserved 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.

As part of the 5-year award, Special Olympics will work with the Association of University Centers on  Disabilities,   the  American   Academy   of  Developmental   Medicine   and  Dentistry,   and  the American   Association   on   Health   and   Disability   to   integrate   and   expand   offerings,   while disseminating information and education, nationally for people with intellectual disabilities.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power  and  joy  of  sports,  every  day  around  the  world.  We  empower  people  with  intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice  Kennedy  Shriver,  the  Special  Olympics  movement  has  grown  to more  than  4.5  million athletes in nearly 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and nearly 100,000 games and competitions throughout  the  year.  Special  Olympics  is  supported  by  individuals,  foundations  and  partners, including  the Christmas  Records Trust, the Law Enforcement  Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The  Coca-Cola   Company,   The  Walt  Disney   Company   and  ESPN,   Microsoft,   Lions   Clubs International,  Toys”R”Us,  Mattel, P&G, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation,  the Golisano Foundation,   Finish  Line,  and  Safilo  Group.  Engage   with  us  on:  Twitter  @specialolympics,,,   and

This release was supported by the Grant or Cooperative Agreement Number, U27 DD001156, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.   



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