WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Special Olympics, the largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities, announced today that it is launching the Golisano Health Leadership Awards to recognize the extensive work of individuals and organizations around the world who are improving the health of people with intellectual disabilities and advancing the year-round health work of Special Olympics.
The awards will also raise awareness for the significant health disparities that continue to be experienced by people with intellectual disabilities, one of the largest and most medically underserved disability groups in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD), millions 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.
The Golisano Awards come at the five-year anniversary of Special Olympics Healthy Communities, the innovative global initiative launched by Special Olympics in 2012 and expanded in 2015 with gifts of $37 million from philanthropist and Paychex Chairman Tom Golisano. The Healthy Communities initiative has been activated in 35 countries and 19 states in the United States and has made significant advancements in increasing access to inclusive health, fitness and wellness programs for people with intellectual disabilities in the communities in which they live.
Through Healthy Communities and with the support of the Golisano Foundation and many other partners, Special Olympics has:
- Trained 21,825 healthcare professionals and students to provide ongoing, community-based care for people with intellectual disabilities
- Engaged 46 universities that have committed to making changes to their curricula to better prepare medical professionals to provide care for people with ID
- Connected 4,894 athletes to needed care after a Healthy Athletes exam
- Developed hundreds of local partnerships, providing more than $30 million in cash and in kind services
- Conducted 88,785 Healthy Athletes exams, with 20,665 being held in locations where Healthy Athletes had never been held before
- Trained 8,651 health advocates (family members, coaches, athlete leaders) on important, locally relevant health topics that they can use to educate others in their community
- Delivered health education on locally relevant topics such as healthy weight, HIV and AIDs, and malaria to 26,255 Special Olympics athletes, family members and coaches.
In addition, since 1997, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, 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 155,000 health care professionals trained on the specific health care concerns of people with intellectual disabilities have distributed 110,000 free pairs of prescription eyewear and completed more than 1.7 million free examinations to Special Olympics athletes worldwide in more than 134 countries. Special Olympics now maintains the largest dataset on the health of people with intellectual disabilities.
The 2016 Golisano Health Leadership Awards will honor approximately 32 individuals or organizations around the world where Healthy Communities has been launched – from Paraguay to Romania, South Africa to Thailand and Golisano's home states of Florida and New York. Of those honorees, 7 recipients from Special Olympics' 7 regions around the world, will be selected to receive the global award, which will be announced at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria in March 2017.
The 32 regional honorees will be selected based on their work related to year-round efforts to increase access to quality health care, programming and resources for people with intellectual disabilities including expanding Healthy Athletes, impacting follow-up care and/or wellness programming, increasing the financial sustainability of Special Olympics health programs, and advancing the health rights of people with intellectual disabilities.
"The Golisano Health Leadership Award is Special Olympics highest honor for health partners and individuals," said Mary Davis, Special Olympics CEO. "It is important to recognize the growing number of health champions at the community, regional and global levels who are working so tirelessly to promote inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities. We also hope to encourage others who are in a position to do the same and help us raise global understanding of the health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. Through the growth and success of Healthy Communities, the Golisano name is becoming synonymous with improving health disparities and increasing access to quality care - from remote towns to major cities in all corners of the world."
The Awards are an outgrowth of the Healthcare Leadership and Move to Include Awards established by the Golisano Foundation in 2010 to recognize and honor people in healthcare and other fields who create access and champion inclusive health and other opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"Having activated year-round health programming in more than 50 locations since our launch, we are on our way to reaching our target of 100 Healthy Communities within five years. While progress is steady and significant, the evidence still points to the need for more work," said Ann Costello, executive director of the Golisano Foundation. "Too few people know the glaring and oftentimes preventable and treatable health problems experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. In communities around the world, people with intellectual disabilities are not receiving equitable health care. We hope one day the Golisano Health Leadership Awards are no longer needed and that the barriers to health care and education no longer exist. The Golisano Foundation and our founder, Tom Golisano, remain committed to working with Special Olympics toward inclusive health for all people with intellectual disabilities," added Costello.
Special Olympics' vision for its health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, is to create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics' 19 years of experience identifying and addressing the unmet health needs of people with intellectual disabilities has revealed the myriad of complex barriers to health faced by this population. Barriers to this vision include lack of access to quality health care, education, and resources.
Special Olympics is working to create a tipping point where health becomes inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities globally by changing curriculum, training health care professionals and policymakers, influencing policy, advocating for inclusive health programming, building partnerships for follow up care and harnessing the power of the Special Olympics Movement to build awareness.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by many individuals, foundations and partners. To see a full list of partners, click here. Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics, fb.com/specialolympics, youtube.com/specialolympicshq, Instagram.com/specialolympics and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.
About Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation
Tom Golisano — entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader — is the founder and chairman of the board of Paychex, Inc., headquartered in Rochester. With more than 12,000 employees and 100 office locations nationwide, Paychex is a leading national provider of payroll, human resource, and benefit outsourcing solutions for more than a half-million small and medium-sized businesses. Tom's vision, perseverance and action have left an indelible mark on a broad spectrum of issues that touch our lives - in business, healthcare, education, voter policies, politics, and tax reform. A fierce advocate for dignity and inclusion, Tom Golisano applied his pioneering spirit to establish the Golisano Foundation to help make the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to his personal philanthropic contributions to hospitals, educational institutions and other organizations exceeding $260 million, the Golisano Foundation is now one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1985, the Foundation recently celebrated its 30th year of "Imagining the Possibilities." With $33 million in gross assets it has awarded more than $21 million in grants, about $2 million annually, to non-profit organizations that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
SOURCE Special Olympics