Special Olympics Hawaii is a Healthy Community
Healthy Athletes is a Special Olympics program that provides free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a doctor or dentist. Our impact on the health and well-being of Special Olympics athletes around the world is great, in some cases saving lives by discovering unknown health issues or providing health care that otherwise would not be available.
We not only serve these athletes but also train health care professionals who then go back to their practices with increased knowledge of and compassion for people with intellectual disabilities.
Importance and Impact
Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better health care than others, they typically receive sub-standard care or virtually no health care at all. Health screenings have found that Special Olympics athletes are at increased risk of secondary health issues:
- 50% have at least one kind of skin or nail condition
- 37% have obvious, untreated tooth decay
- 27% fail hearing tests
- 22% have low bone density
- 15% have an eye disease
Healthy Community Disciplines
MedFest was created to offer the physical exam that all athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports programming. It is sometimes the first exposure these athletes have to medical care. In many cases, life-threatening conditions have been found and subsequently treated thanks to MedFest.
MedFest screenings have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have significant secondary health concerns. Unfortunately medications commonly taken by people with intellectual disabilities are often associated with long-term side effects such as osteoporosis, weight gain, and sun sensitivity.
Special Smiles has demonstrated remarkable success in its mission to increase access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes, and educate dental professionals as to the oral health problems people with disabilities face. Special Smiles provides dental examinations, personal oral hygiene instruction, sport mouth guards to help prevent dental injuries to athletes competing in contact sports, and fluoride varnish treatment for tens of thousands of athletes worldwide.
Special Smiles examinations have found that a large percentage of our athletes are unaware of the condition of their oral health.
Fit Feet helps Special Olympics athletes step lively on the playing field, and in everyday life. Many athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain, or deformities that impair their performance. In fact, up to 50 percent of Special Olympics athletes experience one or more preventable or treatable foot conditions that can affect their sports participation. Often, these individuals are not fitted with the best shoes and socks for their particular sport. To alleviate these problems, volunteer podiatrists work with athletes to evaluate problems of the feet, ankles and lower extremity biomechanics. Fit Feet was developed in collaboration with the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) and the Federation of International Podiatrists (FIP).
Fit Feet screenings have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have untreated foot conditions.
Comprehensive, cooperative and educational, FUNfitness is the physical therapy component of Healthy Athletes. Designed to assess and improve an athlete’s flexibility, functional strength, aerobic capacity and balance, these examinations also educate participants, families and coaches and provide hands-on opportunities for participants to learn about physical therapy and fitness. Athletes and their families receive educational literature, including a personal “fitness report card” illustrating techniques to improve flexibility, functional strength and balance and aerobic condition for sports performance and daily activities. The FUNfitness curriculum was originally developed for Special Olympics Healthy Athletes by the American Physical Therapy Association.
FUNfitness examinations have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have additional health related concerns.
Health Promotion uses interactive educational tools and displays, motivational literature and demonstrations to heighten the awareness of athletes, reinforcing the need to improve and maintain an enhanced level of wellness and self-care.
Health Promotion events have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have limited knowledge of proper health practices.
Healthy Hearing is changing lives in communities across the globe, providing free ear screenings, and other medical services and products to a group who needs it the most – people with intellectual disabilities.
The amount of hearing loss among Special Olympics athletes is much greater than that found in the general population. Most athletes’ hearing problems are previously undetected, un-served or under-treated.
Healthy Hearing screenings have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have untreated hearing conditions.
Special Olympics – Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes is changing lives in communities across the globe, providing free eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to people with intellectual disabilities.
Opening Eyes examinations have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have untreated eye conditions.