Annual Health Summit 2021

Pathways to Inclusive Health in Tennessee

Special Olympics Tennessee hosted its first Health Summit on February 18th. This event was a first of its kind for the Tennessee health program and represents an important step towards inclusive health. The summit not only served as a space to recognize the accomplishments of three important health leaders, but also debuted Tennessee’s athlete Health Messengers who trained in the fall of 2020 to serve as health leaders, educators, and advocates for the state.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities experience disproportionately negative health outcomes compared to people without ID. Individuals with ID face unique challenges to receiving high-quality and compassionate care. Unfortunately, it is common for health professionals to not be aware of how to communicate or treat a patient with ID. Special Olympics’ inclusive health work serves a vital role in bridging care gaps and reducing health disparities faced by people with ID. Unfortunately, it has been found that on a team of 10 athletes:

  • 6 are overweight or obese and at risk for chronic health conditions
  • 4 have untreated tooth decay and 1-2 are in need of urgent dental care
  • 2 would have never had an eye exam and 4 need a new prescription for glasses
  • 2 would fail a hearing test

Athlete Health Messenger panelist, Alex Hannah, commented that “it is surprising to me that in 2021, we still do not have the proper resources for athletes to make a change in these statistics.” Special Olympics Tennessee agrees and asks that our communities across the state work together so athletes can live their healthiest lives and achieve their highest potential, on and off the field.

Health Messengers invite you to join Special Olympics Tennessee’s inclusive health work. Normalizing the lives of people with ID in health spaces is critical in establishing health equity. Stay up to date on all health information, collaboration, and education opportunities by signing up for the Special Olympics Tennessee e-newsletter.

We can’t wait to work with you on our Pathways to Inclusive Health!