Special Olympics North Carolina Awarded Three-Year, $190,000 Grant To Focus On Improved Health For Local Athletes

Health and Wellness programming for people with intellectual disabilities becomes a priority

4/7/16  Raleigh, NC – As people across the globe recognize World Health Day (April 7), Special Olympics North Carolina has announced it will  begin expanded health and wellness programming for people with intellectual disabilities, a population that lacks access to adequate healthcare and faces significant health disparities. This new programming is made possible through a $25-million commitment to Special Olympics International from the Golisano Foundation. Special Olympics has made athlete health a strategic priority and will work to accelerate health efforts to include a turn-key referral process that provides Healthy Athletes follow-up care with community-based network of providers. This work will move toward the ultimate goal of inclusive health care for people with intellectual disabilities. Watch Tim Shriver’s message about the importance of building Healthy Communities for Special Olympics athletes.

Special Olympics NC will be expanding health partnerships and programming with the help of health and wellness partners in a selected area of the state over the next three years with a goal of expanding the efforts statewide.  The expanded health programming will include health screenings in areas such as vision and hearing as well as follow-up care for participating athletes while also engaging athletes in weight loss, fitness and nutrition education programs.

“Special Olympics NC celebrates World Health Day knowing that with Golisano Foundation funding our athletes will have  more opportunities than ever before to embrace healthy lifestyles and get health care attention and follow-up when needed,” said Keith L. Fishburne, president/CEO Special Olympics NC.

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. In developing and developed countries alike, people with intellectual disabilities are consistently one of the most marginalized population subsets – a status that comes with horrific health outcomes. A 2013 United Kingdom study found that people with intellectual disabilities were more than twice as likely to die before the age of 50 than the general population. Barriers that contribute to this include stigma and discrimination, insufficient or lack of health care provider training, over-attributing symptoms to a particular condition which results in conditions being untreated and undiagnosed, limited prevention education reaching this population, limited self-advocacy, cultural beliefs, increased poverty and poor enforcement of laws and policy to protect this population. For example, one Special Olympics study found that 52 percent of medical school deans and 56 percent of students reported that graduates were “not competent” to treat people with intellectual disabilities.

Over the past 19 years Special Olympics International has grown to become the largest global public health organization specifically focused on people with intellectual disabilities. Led by the Golisano Foundation’s support and that of other organizations globally and locally including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Special Olympics is making strides for ensuring inclusive health and working with corporations, organizations, universities, hospitals, and health care professionals to do more to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are not excluded from the health care systems within their communities.

Since 1997, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, also supported by Golisano, has been providing free examinations and education for people with intellectual disabilities across the areas of audiology, dentistry, health promotion, optometry physical exams, physical therapy and podiatry. The award-winning Healthy Athletes program and the more than 135,000 health care professionals trained on the specific healthcare concerns of people with intellectual disabilities have provided more than 1.6 million free examinations to Special Olympics athletes worldwide in more than 130 countries. Now Special Olympics Programs are working toward a focus on year-round inclusive health programming – called Healthy Communities – that takes the tenets of the Healthy Athletes events and includes them into year-round programming opportunities for athletes. Special Olympics North Carolina is working toward recognition as a Healthy Community.

Special Olympics North Carolina
Special Olympics North Carolina offers year-round sports training and competition for nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. These athletes inspire greatness through their success and provide motivation to the thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide. SONC offers Olympic-type competition in 19 sports on local and state levels. Engage with us on; and

Tom Golisano and Golisano Foundation
B. Thomas Golisano, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader, is the founder and Chairman of Paychex, Inc., a national leader in the payroll and human resource industry. He has demonstrated ongoing generosity and commitment to numerous non-profit organizations and has been recognized for his achievements and endeavors by many organizations and national publications. The Golisano Foundation, which he established in 1985, is one of the nation’s leading foundations dedicated exclusively to helping organizations that assist people with developmental disabilities. In addition to the Foundation’s contributions, Mr. Golisano has been very generous to many other institutions and organizations, his philanthropy totaling more than $250 million. For more information see

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