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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
Date:2/11/2009

BOISE, Idaho, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report released Wednesday, February 11, 2009 by Special Olympics found that based on their reported level of physical activity, Special Olympics athletes are more physically active than members of the general population in the United States.

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

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

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

Every athlete competing in the 2009 World Games will have an opportunity to receive free health screening through the Healthy Athletes programs. Since its official launch in 1997, Healthy Athletes has provided more than 700,000 health screenings to Special Olympics athletes worldwide, trained more than 76,000 health care professionals in nearly 100 countries in every part of the globe on the specific health concerns faced by people with intellectual disabilities (ID), and given more than 50,000 pairs of eyeglasses to those that need them free of charge.

"Special Olympics has a global reach not only with participation in the World Games, but every day, in every part of the world," said Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. "The global health crisis is particularly acute for those with intellectual disabilities. We are proud that the outreach and screening provided to athletes makes a huge difference in their ability to leave our competitions performing better and lead more productive, healthy lives. And it is our hope that more government leaders will realize that our health screenings not only change lives, but as proven over our 10 year history, this program saves lives."

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

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programs for nearly 3 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries, Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people's diverse gifts. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at http://www.specialolympics.org.


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SOURCE Special Olympics
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