Health - a Top Priority at World Games Abu Dhabi
By Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics
I hope you are enjoying Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, whether you are here or at home watching and checking things out in social media or on the World Games website.
You might think our name, Special Olympics, says it all about what we do. To be sure, sport is at the heart of our work, AND, you may not know that we do more — with a whole range of education, health, and leadership development programs to empower the whole person to reach their full potential.
A great athlete is a healthy athlete. Special Olympics is creating inclusive health — a world where Special Olympics athletes and all people with ID have the same opportunities to be healthy as everyone. What started in 1997 with free health screenings for Special Olympics athletes is now educating health workers around the world and even changing health policies.
Just as torch runners pass the Flame of Hope, which makes its way from Greece to World Games without ever burning out, inclusive health is making its way across the globe.
One of the original torchbearers of inclusive health, the Golisano Foundation, is spreading inclusive health by honoring the 2019 Golisano Global Health Leadership Award honorees at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. The awards, named for philanthropist and Paychex founder Tom Golisano, is our highest honor for health partners. The Award was established in 2017 to recognize the progress being made around the world to increase access to essential health care for people of determination.
This year’s seven honorees are health champions in their countries and all the nations they come from have athletes participating here at the World Games.
In Jordan, Professor Kamal Bani-Hani, President of Hashemite University, is collaborating with Special Olympics Jordan on health, education, and sports. Hani-Bani works with students in sport science, special education, and medicine to volunteer within Special Olympics Jordan’s health and fitness programs and at competitions and events. This partnership has raised awareness among a new generation of professionals on the importance of community inclusion for people with ID.
In Kenya, Lions Sight First Eye Hospital is improving follow-up care for Special Olympics Kenya athletes. In the past 5 years, the hospital has donated more than 1,000 eye glasses and conducted more than 15 surgeries free of charge for Special Olympics Kenya’s athletes.
In India, Dr. Ashok Dhoble, the Honorary Secretary General for the Indian Dental Association, and the IDA team have partnered with Special Olympics to commit to year-round access to oral healthcare for Bharat athletes and caregivers.
In China, Hua Dong Hospital are forming a medical volunteer team to support Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screenings and establish a year-round Special Olympics Health Support Project team. The Health Project team has conducted Healthy Athletes events in 17 cities and completed more than 12,000 screenings.
In Belgium, the Belgian Dentists Collaboration have formed a “National Collaboration Platform” for dentists in that nation to achieve better oral health outcomes for people of determination. Led by dentists Dr. Luc Marks and Dr. Michel De Decker, both Special Smiles Clinical Directors, through a national collaboration, four major Belgian Universities partnered with all dental professional organizations to improve the oral health of people with ID.
In Paraguay, Dr. Dorisel Ferreira, the Director of the Third Health Region of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, has recruited staff from the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare to volunteer at Healthy Athletes as well as getting the Ministry of Health to provide the equipment necessary for Healthy Athletes events. Dr. Ferreira has created a network for follow-up care, making it possible for athletes and their families to get medical care, dental care, immunizations, and specialty care at local hospitals.
In the United States, Dr. Peter Seidenberg, a family and sports medicine physician at Penn State Sports Medicine College, has led the way in evaluating, strengthening, and contributing to the global roll-out of MedFest, and working with Special Olympics Pennsylvania to create a directory of providers who will accept athletes in need of follow up care. Dr. Seidenberg is currently developing Continuing Medical Education lectures to train healthcare providers how to deliver quality care to people with ID and work to reduce health disparities.
As we honor the 2019 Golisano Global Health Leadership Award honorees, we also want to express our deep gratitude to Tom Golisano — and Ann Costello, Executive Director of the Golisano Foundation — for their extraordinary leadership, innovation and action — their unprecedented investment in Special Olympics health, to make the world a healthier place for all people of determination, for everyone.
We also want to express our gratitude to the local Healthy Athlete sponsor in the United Arab Emirates, NMC Healthcare, which is offering free health screenings and health education to all 7,500 athletes competing in Special Olympics World Games 2019.