• Over 100 people from the UAE with intellectual disabilities received health screenings
  • Special Olympics International Clinical Directors from across the world trained dozens of local volunteers - health care professionals - on how to communicate with, treat, and care for people with intellectual disabilities
  • UAE and MENA region volunteers join inclusive health movement for people with intellectual disabilities
  • The program volunteers join over 220,000 professionals trained by Special Olympics, improving access to quality health services year-round and around the world

UAE, Abu Dhabi, 1st October 2017: In preparation for holding the Special Olympics MENA Regional Games 2018 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, H.E. Professor Dr. Maha Taysir Barakat, Department of Health, and a member of Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, officially launched the “Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Train The Trainers” program at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Abu Dhabi’s International Financial Centre on Al Maryah Island.

With less than six months to go until the Special Olympics MENA Regional Games 2018 (17 – 22 March 2018), seven clinicians from across the world arrived in Abu Dhabi to train 16 regional and over 30 local physicians on how to screen people with intellectual disabilities as part of the three-day “Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Train The Trainers” event.

On Sunday, program volunteers from the UAE and MENA region, screened 100 people with intellectual disabilities as part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, providing many athletes with free health screenings and education. Screening includes podiatry, vision, dentistry, fitness, nutrition and healthy habits, audiology, and emotional well-being.

H.E. Prof Dr. Maha Barakat, Department of Health, and a member of Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, stated: “It is a real honor for Abu Dhabi and our nation to be hosting the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, a true reflection of the UAE’s 2021 vision, which promotes an inclusive environment by extending care towards all segments of the community. This is a sentiment that emanates from the principles introduced by our founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan back in the day, and one which is still upheld by our wise leadership today.”

“It is no coincidence that the Healthy Athletes Program mirrors our vision for A Healthier Abu Dhabi. As part of our initiatives for the 2017 UAE Year of Giving, we have taken major steps towards integrating people of determination into the community. By helping individuals with disabilities overcome various challenges, we are preparing them to become highly qualified and productive members of society. At the same time we are breaking down societal misperceptions.”

The Train The Trainers program builds the capacity of health care professionals to communicate with, treat, and care for people with intellectual disabilities in their own practices. Special Olympics has trained over 220,000 professionals, improving access to quality health services year-round and around the world. These healthcare professionals provide life-changing care to millions of people with intellectual disabilities. When people with ID have access to health services, they also have more opportunities for education, employment, sports, and other pathways to reach full participation in society.

The launch event was also attended by H.E. Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games, H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development, Ahmed Al Sayegh, Chariman of ADGM, Dr. Michelle Funk, Coordinator of Mental Health Policy and Service Development, Human Rights and Legislation at the World Health Organization (WHO), and Peter Wheeler, CEO, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, were also in attendance.

H.E. Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games, said: “The Healthy Athletes event has been a huge success and we are incredibly proud to have held it here in Abu Dhabi. The programme educates athletes with intellectual disabilities on healthy lifestyle choices and helps to identify problems that may require additional support. It is a vitally important event and can have life-changing effects for those who are screened.

“We would like to thank each of the seven International Directors who have spent the last three days providing health screenings and training our local volunteers to provide health screenings for those with intellectual disabilities. Their work over the course of the Healthy Athletes event has been invaluable and will help to ensure that every single person, regardless of ability or disability, will be able to train and compete in sports.”

Peter Wheeler, CEO of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 stated: “Special Olympics and our partners are making health systems more inclusive. We collaborate with national, regional, and global organizations – including the World Health Organization – who develop standards and guidelines, disseminate health information, provide training, collect and analyze data, and evaluate health programs.”

The Special Olympics MENA Regional Games will be held in Abu Dhabi in preparation for the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. The team of local physicians who signed up as volunteers to receive training and provide health screenings this weekend, will go on to train other local volunteers in preparation for the Healthy Athletes program at the Regional Games in March. It is expected that over 1,600 athletes will compete at the Regional Games and over 7,000 will compete at the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

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About the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi (AD2019)
The 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, scheduled for March 14-21, will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world, with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing more than 170 countries. The World Games will be an unprecedented display of the spirit, joy, courage and skill that are hallmarks of the Special Olympics movement. The largest single event ever held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East, the World Games features 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in venues throughout Abu Dhabi. The spectacular Opening Ceremony on March 14 is expected to attract 45,000 spectators while being viewed by millions worldwide via global broadcast partners ESPN and Abu Dhabi Media.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the 2019 World Games will be the most unified Special Olympics competition in history, with inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the event. The Games are the most visible component of a planned series of initiatives by Abu Dhabi and the UAE to expand opportunity for people with disabilities, and to promote inclusion and understanding throughout the emirate, nation, and region. Plans for operation of the World Games include leaving a legacy of improved health, education, and inclusion that will benefit the UAE long after the event is over.