Press Release 21st August 2019                                                                                               

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Special Olympics Ireland recognised as a Healthy Community

Special Olympics Ireland receives Healthy Communities Award


Today it has been announced that Special Olympics Ireland has been recognised as a Healthy Community. The Healthy Communities Recognition Award is the highest health distinction awarded by Special Olympics International, which acknowledges the continuous work Special Olympics Ireland has carried out towards improving accessibility of health information and services for people with intellectual disability.

Special Olympics Ireland supports the global vision to create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities.


“People with intellectual disabilities often experience poorer quality and reduced access to health services. From the Healthy Athlete programme research we know that on a team of 10 Special Olympics athletes, 4 will need glasses and 2 will have some sort of eye disease, 6 will be overweight or obese, 3 will fail a hearing test and 2 will have low bone density. Special Olympics Ireland has been working hard to improve accessibility of health information and services through our different health & wellbeing programmes, and we are delighted to receive this award in recognition of this work so far.” says Cáit Donnelly, Health & Wellbeing Coordinator, Special Olympics Ireland.


In 2018, 655 athletes were screened through the Healthy Athlete Programme at the Special Olympics Ireland Games in Dublin, where a total 1,375 screenings were conducted. Over 50% of athletes screened did not pass a hearing test, 20% had untreated tooth decay and 86% had flexibility concerns. Based on these results, Special Olympics Ireland continues its mission to improve the lives of people with an intellectual disability living in Ireland on and off the sports field.


“To be a great athlete you need to be a healthy athlete and so we at Special Olympics Ireland are committed to the health of our athletes, and we are honoured to receive the recognition for our work in this area.” said Matt English, Special Olympics CEO.

Special Olympics Healthy Communities initiative is made possible by the Golisano Foundation. Since 2012, Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation, have committed $37 million to the Special Olympics global health programme. The goal is to increase access to health, fitness and wellness programmes for people with intellectual disabilities. So far, the Healthy Communities initiative has been activated in 64 countries and has made significant advancements in increasing access to health, fitness and wellness programs for people with intellectual disabilities in the communities in which they live. Special Olympics Ireland is proud to be part of this movement.


Captions: Special Olympics athletes were on hand recently to receive the Healthy Communities Award on behalf of the organisation.

Back row: Edel Armstrong (athlete) Cáit Donnelly (Health & Wellbeing Coordinator Special Olympics Ireland) Patrick Monaghan (athlete) Margaret Turley (athlete) Bernadette Casey (athlete) Kieron Allen (athlete)

Front Row: Lynn Conroy (athlete), Una Hennessy (athlete), Paula Carroll (athlete)


About Special Olympics Ireland

Special Olympics Ireland provides sports training, competition and health & wellbeing opportunities to children and adults with an intellectual disability across Ireland.

There are currently 7,812 athletes training year round in our network of 313 clubs.

Special Olympics Ireland offers a number of Health & Wellbeing programmes, which include:

  1. Special Olympics Ireland Health Promotion Programme was developed provide user friendly material for people with an intellectual disability. The programme resources consist of a Health Toolkit for the Health Promotion Facilitators (who are volunteers) to deliver different health modules in this Special Olympics Club and an individual Athlete Pack for each athlete who takes part in the programme. The Health Promotion Programme materials have all been designed and developed by people with an intellectual disability specifically for people with an intellectual disability. The Athlete Pack encourages health protective behaviours so athletes feel supported to make healthy choices in everyday choices.
  2. The Healthy Athletes Programme provides free health screenings and education to Special Olympics athletes while changing the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Ireland currently offers 7 disciplines within in this programme:
  • Health Promotion focuses on healthy living, healthy lifestyle choices around healthy eating, physical activity, smoking, sunscreen etc. Screenings for blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) are also available.
  • Healthy Hearing provides hearing exams to athletes to detect ear or hearing problems, recommends follow-up care if needed, and advises about the necessity for regular ear and hearing exams.
  • Special Smiles provides comprehensive free dental screening and shows athletes correct brushing and flossing techniques including accessible oral health care information.
  • Opening Eyes is changing lives in communities across the globe, providing free eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to people with intellectual disabilities.
  • FunFitness tests athlete’s flexibility, strength, and balance and offers exercises to improve function in sports training & competition, and to prevent or reduce risk of injury.
  • Fit Feet inspects athlete’s motion range and any deformations in their feet and ankles, as well as skin and nail consistency. Shoes and socks are also inspected to fit athletes. Athletes are also educated about choosing the right shoes as well as proper foot and nail care.
  • Strong Minds aims to teach athletes exercises and provide resources to increase relaxation and stress management skills.


Interview opportunities available:

Please contact Pamela Kavanagh, Marketing and Communications Manager, Special Olympics Ireland on 085 802 2707 or email