204519 Analysis of Health Disparities and Co-Morbidities among Special Olympics Athletes

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Amy Harris, MPH , Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Darcie L. Mersereau, MPH , Special Olympics University, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Stanley Shepherd, MB, ChB , Health One Global Ltd, London, United Kingdom
Qiuqing (Daisy) Tai, Graduate student from school of International Relations and Pacific Studies, UC San Diego , Graduate student from school of International Relations and Pacific Studies, UC San Diego, Washington, DC

People with intellectual disabilities (ID) experience poor health and specialized health needs. To address these problems, Special Olympics (SO) International implemented the Healthy Athletes® program to provide SO athletes with health screenings and referrals for follow-up care. Data from these screenings have been aggregated into the world's largest database on the health of people with ID.


Healthy Athletes screenings span six health areas: podiatry, fitness, health promotion, audiology, vision, and dental health. Health indicators have been studied in-depth within these health areas but cross-disciplinary analyses had not previously been conducted. This study examined co-morbidities among SO athletes, as well as regional differences in these co-morbidities.


SO athletes experience significant secondary health conditions. At the last 3 World Games, for example, 44% of athletes screened had untreated tooth decay and 22% failed hearing tests. Regional analyses revealed disparities, such as a higher prevalence of skin/nail conditions in North America and a higher prevalence of low bone density in Europe/Eurasia. Analysis of co-morbidities, such as the connection between low bone density and tooth loss and the connection between balance and hearing loss, revealed further health issues and additional regional disparities.


Analysis of data from Healthy Athletes screenings continues to document health conditions experienced by this population, as well as examine regional differences. For the first time, co-morbidities among SO athletes were examined, and this data will help focus efforts on the regions and the athletes most in need of enhanced health care.

Learning Objectives:
1)Understand the health indicators collected at Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® screenings. 2)Discuss the health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. 3)Understand the most significant co-morbidities faced by this population.

Keywords: Disability, Health Disparities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: In May 2008, I completed my MPH in epidemiology at the George Washington University. I now work as Manager of Research and Evaluation for Special Olympics International. My role at Special Olympics includes analyzing the data from the Healthy Athletes screenings. Therefore, I am qualified to present on this data.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.