Special Olympics Issues Report on the Impact of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Initiative to show Need for Reauthorization of the Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004

Thursday, February 12, 2009 General News
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BOISE, Idaho, Feb. 11 A new report released Wednesday,February 11, 2009 by Special Olympics found that based on their reported levelof physical activity, Special Olympics athletes are more physically activethan members of the general population in the United States.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit the Healthy Athletes venue at theWorld Winter Games in Boise, Idaho on Thursday, February 12, 2009. He willmeet with athletes being screened for vision, and strength and conditioning.

The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program was launched in 1997 toprovide health screenings for athletes at the local, national, andinternational level. The Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004,which provides funding for the Healthy Athletes program through theDepartments of Health and Human Services, Education and State, is up forreauthorization this year.

The report, titled "Serving Athletes, Families and the Community" findsthat there is a strong connection between Special Olympics participation andhealth physical activity. However, the statistics are not so favorable withhealth hurdles routinely handled by the public in general, including vision,hearing, and dental care. Healthy Athletes employs seven unique and freehealth screening options, educational information and referral for follow-upcare. Services are provided by health care professionals who volunteer theirtime and talents to benefit this otherwise medically under-served population.

Every athlete competing in the 2009 World Games will have an opportunityto receive free health screening through the Healthy Athletes programs. Sinceits official launch in 1997, Healthy Athletes has provided more than 700,000health screenings to Special Olympics athletes worldwide, trained more than76,000 health care professionals in nearly 100 countries in every part of theglobe on the specific health concerns faced by people with intellectualdisabilities (ID), and given more than 50,000 pairs of eyeglasses to thosethat need them free of charge.

"Special Olympics has a global reach not only with participation in theWorld Games, but every day, in every part of the world," said TimothyShriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. "The global health crisis isparticularly acute for those with intellectual disabilities. We are proudthat the outreach and screening provided to athletes makes a huge differencein their ability to leave our competitions performing better and lead moreproductive, healthy lives. And it is our hope that more government leaderswill realize that our health screenings not only change lives, but as provenover our 10 year history, this program saves lives."

The Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act, HR-3151, authorized $15million per year over five years in funding for the growth of Special OlympicsPrograms in communities across the United States and around the world,including expansion of sports programs, Healthy Athletes(R) screening servicesand education initiatives that foster greater understanding and respect forpeople with intellectual disabilities. The Act expires this year and SpecialOlympics hopes it will be championed for reauthorization.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives bypromoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with andwithout intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training andathletic competition and other related programs for nearly 3 million childrenand adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries, SpecialOlympics has created a model community that celebrates people's diverse gifts.Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides peoplewith intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize theirpotential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joyand friendship. Visit Special Olympics at http://www.specialolympics.org.

SOURCE Special Olympics

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