Quality health care will drive Special Olympics movement — Perlman

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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Providing high-quality health care, in tandem with sports, will drive the Special Olympics movement forward, according to Dr Steven Perlman, a global clinical advisor for Special Olympics International (SOI).

A founder of the healthy athletes programme, Perlman was among representatives from the international body providing support to the Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) staging of the unified football and healthy athletes screening yesterday at Treasure Beach Sports Park.

“I always said health is going to drive the movement of Special Olympics... if we show that in addition to sports we can help deliver access to health care, that's a game changer for many of the athletes and their parents,” Perlman, a specialist in paediatric special needs dentistry, told the Jamaica Observer.

“For my speciality I'm very thrilled that I've the complete support of the Ministry of Health. The public health troops have been mobilised to help increase access to care and provide treatment for these patients, so it's one of the gold standards in the Caribbean,” he added in reference to Jamaica's hosting of the event.

Javier Vasquez, senior director of health systems for SOI, reinforced the significance of combining health promotion and the widening of the pool of medical practitioners.

“We have the unified football competition where athletes play, and they are also going to go through health screening as part of the healthy athletes programme. This has been happening for 20 years, but then what is different here is that we also invited health workers from the Ministry of Health to observe the training and screening to treat people with intellectual disabilities,” he said.

“We are trying to take intellectual disability and experience of Special Olympics to the health systems and have more health workers trained in the hospitals and clinics. It is really scaling up the product from Special Olympics and the screens, to access to care for people with intellectual disabilities in national health care [system]. This work is supported by the United Nation Convention of rights for people with disabilities, adopted 10 years ago. This is about inclusion, and sports is a great entry point to reach health, universal coverage, health systems and insurance policies,” said Vasquez, who is from Panama, but based in Washington, DC, United States

Angela Ciccolo, chief legal officer and secretary of the board of directors for Special Olympics International, lauded the scope of work carried out by SOJ.

“We're here specifically to support Special Olympics Jamaica and the unified competition, but also to really solidify our partnerships with health organisations and with UNICEF. It's been amazing because of the hospitality, the passion, and the real understanding of the mission of Special Olympics,” she said.

Under the healthy screening programme, athletes have access to free services with emphasis on the eyes, ears, teeth and feet. Athletes are also exposed to physiotherapy and general health awareness.

The unified football component provided athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance to compete alongside and against athletes without these disabilities.

The weekend's activities were coordinated through a partnership with Pan American Health Organisation, the regional office of the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Lions Club International, the FIFA Football for Hope programme, Digicel, Sports Development Foundation, Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Treasure Beach-based Breds Foundation.




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