Under the agreement, the organizations will collaborate to train health workers, educate policymakers, create partnerships, disseminate information, and mobilize some 365,000 athletes and partners in the Special Olympics movement in the Americas.
PAHO/WHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne said “By making health care more inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities in the Americas, this collaboration with Special Olympics will reduce inequalities in health systems throughout the region. To achieve universal health coverage, PAHO must collaborate with health authorities, specialized agencies, academic institutions, the private sector, and civil society organizations to provide better health care for people with these disabilities.”
Special Olympics Chairman of the Board Timothy P. Shriver, PhD, said “The structural barriers, stigma, and outright discrimination people with intellectual disabilities ID face to access health care services is unacceptable. Collaborating with PAHO/WHO will break down barriers to health care for the most marginalized people in the Americas. This collaboration between PAHO/WHO and Special Olympics will make health truly inclusive for people with ID, and will bring this historically marginalized population into health systems designed to serve them.”
The memorandum of understanding signed by Dr. Shriver and Dr. Etienne sets objectives that focus on strengthening health systems to serve all people with ID, including athletes competing at Special Olympics events, and includes a specific objective to promote the participation and empowerment of people with ID to become self-advocates and leaders in this regional movement. This partnership will directly support PAHO’s Action Plan on Disabilities and Rehabilitation, which aims to improve access to health services for people with disabilities.
More than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2011 World Report on Disability. Some 30 countries of the Americas have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which affirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
However, people with ID still face enormous stigma, discrimination, and exclusion, and they are often an invisible population whose worth is unknown to governments, influencers, and society at large. Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with ID are often denied basic health care and services and are frequently among the most vulnerable populations in any country.