241681 Special Olympics athletes' ability to self-report health needs: Results from Healthy Athletes triage

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Amy Shellard, MPH , Research and Evaluation, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Heather Parker, MS, CHES , Healthy Athletes Program, Special Olympics, Washington, DC
Darcie L. Mersereau, MPH , Special Olympics University, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Stephen B. Corbin, DDS, MPH , Division of Community Impact, Special Olympics International, Washington, DC
Background: Special Olympics (SO) Healthy Athletes (HA) provides health screenings and referrals for follow-up care spanning six disciplines: podiatry, fitness, health promotion, audiology, vision, and dentistry. With limited time at HA, it is important to get athletes screened at the disciplines best matching their health needs. A triage system was piloted to test a method addressing this challenge. Methods: Ten nursing students administered a self-assessment questionnaire to 172 randomly selected athletes. Algorithms determined if an athlete should go to a specific discipline for further evaluation. Responses to the self-assessment were compared to HA screening results. Results: Athletes referred to the dentistry screening from triage had higher rates of mouth pain, tooth decay, and urgent treatment recommendations compared to non-referred athletes. These results suggest the questions asked for dentistry allowed SO athletes to accurately report their dental health needs. In other disciplines, self-assessment results did not match screening results. Other analyses revealed the importance of the questions. For example, 23 athletes reported being in pain when asked the generic question “do you have any pain?” When asked about specific locations (e.g. mouth), 51 athletes reported being in pain. Discussion: In five disciplines, the percentage of referred athletes attending was higher than the percentage of all athletes who went to that same discipline, suggesting that triage recommendations influence attendance at screenings. It is imperative to test a new version of the questionnaire to develop a triage process that enhances sensitivity and sends athletes to the disciplines that best match their health needs.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Program planning
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to 1) Describe the challenges associated the current Healthy Athletes screening set-up; 2) Discuss the ways in which Special Olympics is addressing these challenges, and 3) Identify ways in which to approve the general triage process and self-assessment questionnaire.

Keywords: Screening, Disability

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I manage the Healthy Athletes database for Special Olympics.
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.