Health and Fitness is one of Special Olympics North Carolina’s key components to our 2016-2020 strategic plan. Despite our impact via sports, Special Olympics’ research has shown that people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are consistently left out of health systems that are ill-equipped to diagnose and treat them. Medical professionals recognize how many people can be reached by partnering with SONC. Not surprisingly, our athlete leadership of Special Olympics NC has identified “Health, Fitness, and Nutrition” as a top priority for the organization to address.
The vision of the Special Olympics Health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, is to create a future world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities to be as healthy as people without intellectual disabilities and, in doing so, Special Olympics athletes can perform to their best on and off the playing field. Barriers to this vision include lack of access to quality health care, education, and resources. To address the health disparities our athletes face, Special Olympics Health is leading a number of integrated and complementary efforts to strengthen the capacity of existing systems of care.
With more than 1.6 million free health examinations conducted in more than 130 countries, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program offers health services and information to athletes in dire need. As a result, Special Olympics has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics North Carolina is doing its part to make sure North Carolina will be among the leaders in improving the health of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Over the next five years, SONC seeks to build better, healthier communities through a more holistic approach to health, fitness, nutrition and inclusion. As part of our new strategic plan, we will increase our existing Healthy Athlete screenings and also offer programs that are more accessible locally with a focus on healthy lifestyles (including nutrition). We will also incorporate Healthy Communities programming into our ongoing sports programs which have seen tremendous success throughout North Carolina by involving nearly 40,000 registered athletes in our program. Good health goes hand-in-hand with participation in sport.
Our goal is to help our athletes lead healthy lives where they are accepted as productive and contributing members of their communities. To succeed in achieving this ambitious vision, we are assembling partners who also embrace it.
- 2018 MedFest partners with Atrium, CMS, Special Olympics of NC to provide free screenings to athletes
- NC Health News: MedFests offer helping hand to Special Olympics athletes
- MedFest screenings help Charlotte students become Special Olympics Athletes (2016)
- Special Olympics receives up to $22.5 Million from the CDC to build inclusive health programming
- Special Olympics North Carolina awarded three-year, $190,000 grant to focus on improved health for local athletes
- Granville Vance Public Health and Special Olympics North Carolina collaborate with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare to host second annual Granville-Vance MedFest
Healthy Athletes Disciplines in NC
Healthy Athletes® is a Special Olympics program that provides free health screenings and health education in a fun, welcoming environment with a focus on removing the anxiety people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a medical professional.
Provides free screenings and education on balance, flexibility and strength by physical therapists.
Provides education and resources for healthy life choices including sun safety, tobacco cessation, and healthy diet.
Provides free ear and hearing screenings designed to ensure proper audiological care for participating Special Olympics athletes.
Provides resources to help athletes with coping skills and strategies to manage stress in both competition and in life.
Provides free vision screening and assistance to athletes in need of protective eye wear or even new glasses.
Provides dental screenings, free toothbrushes, teeth cleaning tips and mouth guards as needed.
Provides podiatric screenings to evaluate ankles, feet, lower extremity biomechanics, and proper shoe and sock gear to participating athletes.
Healthy Community Work
Special Olympics NC recognized as Healthy Community
Special Olympics North Carolina was recently recognized by Special Olympics International as one of 33 Special Olympics Healthy Communities. This recognition is awarded to accredited Special Olympics Programs that have elevated their health work to expand their Healthy Athletes program and broaden athletes’ ability to access year-round quality health care, wellness, and fitness opportunities within their community.
Local SONC programs are spearheading the inclusive health movement. Below are some of the health and wellness programs that are currently happening across the state. These could not be possible without the help of local partners!
- Alamance County SOfit
- Cabarrus County Wellness Program
- Cape Fear Memorial Foundation Health Initiative
- Franklin County Schools Healthy UCS Challenge
- Murdoch Developmental Center SOfit
- Raleigh Racers Fitness and Nutrition Practice Program
- Triangle YMCA Inclusive Fitness Classes
- WOD for Inclusion: SONC fundraiser led by local Crossfit Gyms
- Yoga in Schools
- Athlete Health Messenger: Training coming soon. Athletes are encouraged to help in the planning and implementation of health and wellness programming. If you are an athlete interested in getting more involved email email@example.com.
- Local health chair or committee member: The health chair and committee help connect athletes to health and community resources, increase athlete numbers, and eliminate many common barriers to healthcare in the community. These are both volunteer positions. Follow these links to learn more about becoming a local health chair or a health committee member in your community.
- Healthy Athletes Clinical Director: Special Olympics Clinical Directors are volunteer professionals who are responsible for working with their local Special Olympics Program and other volunteer health professionals in coordinating the local Healthy Athletes Program (see Healthy Athletes section below). If you are interested in becoming a Clinical Director or learning more, please, fill out this form.
- Inclusive health practitioner: Have you or your practice been trained on the best ways to provide inclusive care to people with intellectual disabilities? Do you offer inclusive care? SONC is building a network or healthcare practitioners that are comfortable and willing to see athletes if they should need to see a provider. Please, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added to our list of inclusive health practitioners.
- Inclusive fitness classes: Would you like to offer inclusive fitness classes? People with intellectual disabilities are less likely to engage in health promotion activities, and many fitness and wellness organizations do not know how to effectively serve this population and how to support the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in their programs. To help, many local programs are looking for places where athletes can go to be active or for a fitness professional to provide extra physical activity at practices. Read more about how you and/or your organization can be more inclusive. If you are interested in offering classes email email@example.com.
- Wellness coach: Many local programs offer wellness programs for the athletes to participate in whether it is at practice or a standalone program. For these to run smoothly wellness coaches are needed to help lead the program. As a wellness coach you can either follow a Special Olympics program such as SOfit or you may offer your own wellness program for local athletes to participate in. If you are interested in becoming a wellness coach or would like more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local coordinators looking to add health programming can visit the resource page to find the latest tools to help you get started.