Special Olympics has received a $12 million pledge, the largest in its history, to expand its health-related services to people with intellectual disabilities and launch of what it is calling its Healthy Communities initiative.
The gift from philanthropist and businessman Tom Golisano of New York will be paid out over four years and was announced at the opening of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York City.
Healthy Communities will be launched in seven countries (Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, and Thailand) and six states in the United States (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York). It will build upon and broaden the scope of the current Healthy Athletes program, which has provided free health screenings and products to athletes for 15 years.
Special Olympics’ goal for Healthy Communities is to achieve improved health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all are receiving health services and are able to reach their full potential. It will expand services to more athletes, increase partnerships with local organizations, expand the use of technology, and promote awareness of the health difficulties facing people with intellectual disabilities.
Golisano is the founding sponsor and major underwriter for eight consecutive years of the CGI Annual Meeting. His first gift to Special Olympics International was in 2010, to conduct Healthy Athletes trainings of doctors and other health care providers from across the United States. That support allowed for the training, engagement and, activation of dozens of health professionals who were empowered to conduct Healthy Athletes clinics at Special Olympics events in their own communities. In addition, it allowed for the implementation of a new health practitioner training model that enhanced Special Olympics’ ability to respond to local training needs.
“This unprecedented gift by Tom Golisano is going to impact lives worldwide, and we are honored to have the opportunity to share this incredible news at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting,” said Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy P. Shriver. “The stories of health disparity and need we hear are unbelievable. We know athletes with previously undiagnosed cancers, extremely low bone density, and a multitude of other ailments that were overlooked until they came to a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes event. This new funding opens the door to reach many more people in need, and we hope that others join us on the journey to provide health care to a community of people that so desperately need it.”
According to Golisano, “We chose to make this announcement at this year’s CGI Annual Meeting, where world leaders are convening to turn ideas into action and solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, because it is our hope that this gift will generate additional support and resources from hospitals, universities, professional associations, other nonprofit organizations, corporations and agencies worldwide.”
In addition to expanding on the seven Healthy Athletes health disciplines (vision, hearing, oral health, healthy lifestyles, general fitness, podiatry, and sports physicals), these new Healthy Communities will be able to address some of the most acute medical conditions, including diseases of extreme poverty such as malaria, tuberculosis, waterborne diseases, and others, as well as conditions more prevalent in developed countries (e.g. obesity, early onset chronic disease).
Specific outcomes of Healthy Communities include:
- 1,580 additional Healthy Athletes clinics globally over four years providing services for approximately 260,000 additional athletes with ID;
- Training on the specific health needs of people with ID for approximately 5,000 health care professionals to lead or participate in clinics in their communities and provide care to others with intellectual disabilities when they return to their full-time jobs;
- 60 mini-grant awards to replicate and expand the work of the Healthy Community projects; and,
- Enhanced use of technology, including the creation of 96,000 athlete electronic health records.
The Healthy Communities locations were selected via a competitive process from among 33 nominated Special Olympics Programs. Each were evaluated by a review team against a set of criteria which identified their ability to significantly effectively scale up health activities if given additional support. The criteria used to evaluate Programs included their current integration of health into strategic plans and operations, current level of Health partnership development and past performance in delivering against organizational priorities.
Golisano is chairman of Paychex, Inc., a payroll and human resource firm. The Golisano Foundation, which he established in 1985, is dedicated exclusively to helping organizations devoted to helping those with developmental disabilities. In addition to the Foundation’s contributions, Golisano’s philanthropy totals more than $200 million.