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Washington, D.C., November 28, 2017 (PAHO/WHO- SOI) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Special Olympics today signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at increasing access to quality health care for people with intellectual disabilities.

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.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 172 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners such as the Golisano Foundation. 

About PAHO

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their populations. Founded in 1902, it is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It acts as the WHO regional office for the Americas and is the specialized health agency of the inter-American system.


Special Olympics


From Special Olympics
Rebecca Simmons, Tel: 1+202-824-0344; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leticia Linn, Phone. + 1 202 974 3440, Mobile: +1 202 701 4005, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Sebastián Oliel, Phone: +1 202 974 3459, Mobile: +1 202 316 5679, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Daniel Epstein, Phone. +1 202 974 3579, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. PAHO/WHO: