• Addison Hughes

Special Olympics Health: Inclusion Within The Medical Field During COVID-19

Many don’t realize that one of the largest societal inequalities that individuals of the IDD Community have to face is within the medical care system. Many disability diagnoses come along with other underlying health conditions, each unique to an individual. This calls for accountability of medical professionals to care for individuals with IDD. Over 80% of healthcare providers are not trained to treat the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. This already troublesome reality has even greater weight during a pandemic. While doing research, I saw the inequalities and inconsistencies in medical care for the IDD community and knew that this was an extremely important thing to write about and provide a resource for. Whether you are someone who has a disability, a family member, a friend, a part of the medical field, or a loyal supporter, I hope this is helpful to you!

Inequalities in Health Care for The IDD Community


Lack of education and aid within medical care for the IDD community stems from many different causes. First off, the healthcare system for people with disabilities has had a drastic change within the last 100 years. Care of individuals with IDD has transferred from institutional to community-based. This transition has been extremely important in providing equality and inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This also means that healthcare providers everywhere need to be trained to be there for them, and in a lot of cases come up short. Another cause of the problem stems directly from non-inclusionary curriculum for doctors, nurses, dentists, and psychologists. These lack of educational standards limit the ability healthcare workers have to help individuals, while also creating bias within the healthcare community. Without proper training, experience, and familiarity many healthcare professionals feel uncomfortable and choose not to provide care for individuals with IDD. This unfortunately limits the access of medical care individuals can receive.

The deficiency of medical care for the IDD community is an issue that is unacceptable and needs to have greater attention. Fortunately, there have been national healthcare providers that see this need and want to make a difference. For example, “The American Nurse Association” has called for its curriculum to encompass the specific needs of more groups of people, and “The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry” has also upped its standards in education regarding the needs of the IDD community. Special Olympics has also been paving the way for inclusion within the medical field, and in the past few months COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for everyone to make a difference.


Special Olympics

Many know Special Olympics for providing the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to be coached, train, and compete in sporting events. Whether it is through local track races or watching professional athletes compete in the Special Olympics on our TV screens, Special Olympics is making a huge difference for the IDD Community. Special Olympics also play an important role in promoting equality of health for individuals with IDD through their Special Olympics Health (SOH) initiative. The mission of SOH is “to provide access to preventive health programming and access to quality health care for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to improve their physical health and social and emotional well-being.” The non-profit is the leader of the much-needed revolution for healthcare inclusion. They have served as a leader by creating access to health care for individuals with IDD in developing countries, holding forums for families which are a part of the IDD community to support each other, providing in-depth health screenings specific to individuals with IDD, training health force workers to be equipped to treat individuals with disabilities, and partnering with other healthcare organizations to expand their cause. SOH also created a free online learning portal that anyone can access anytime to learn more about healthcare for individuals with IDD, as well as train medical professionals. There are so many amazing outcomes of each action that SOH is making. There was a void in care for the physical and mental health of the IDD community and Special Olympics Health is constantly finding new ways to fill it.


What You Can Do Right Now


When COVID-19 came into effect Special Olympics had to close their doors for sporting events, but opened up an opportunity just as important. Individuals of the IDD community are at greater risk for respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. In the early stages of COVID-19 SOH identified the potential health risks that the IDD community may face. SOH knew that healthcare professionals needed to be prepared for this and made a free eLearning course to educate on how to medically treat individuals with IDD. This course provides a history of the medical field related to IDD, information regarding common health conditions individuals face, and education on the importance of inclusion in the medical field. The course also takes into account the current threat of COVID-19 on the IDD community. In order to take the course, all anyone has to do is go through the sign-up process on the website. It is completely free and open to anyone. This is a great resource to send to people you know in the healthcare community, as well as for anyone to take to further promote inclusion within healthcare.

Recource Links:


Free Course Link


Special Olympics Health Inclusion Initiatives


Free Online Learning Portal for More Medical Training Outside of COVID-19



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