May 26, 2013 | Updated: January 29, 2019

By Tela Mange

Wellness Park during the Summer Games included Opening Eyes, Special Smiles and Health Promotions. Athletes who completed all three activities received a Subway giftcard.

During the weekend, health professionals provided 980 free health screenings in all three disciplines. Athletes received vision testing and glasses, dental screenings and received information on healthy living.

Dr. Ralph Herring, Clinical Director for Opening Eyes, said that the creation of Healthy Athletes meets two needs: the need of Special Olympics Athletes for healthcare and the need for physicians and other health professionals to get experience in treating individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“The whole reason Healthy Athletes started was the recognition that this population wasn’t getting healthcare. Many doctors didn’t feel comfortable treating this population or didn’t feel they could handle these types of patients,” he said.

Dr. Herring said training the doctors and health professionals to provide services at Healthy Athletes shows them that “you may have to do things a little differently with this population, but you can do it.”

Once they receive the training and see that it is possible to treat individuals with intellectual disabilities, the doctors usually go back home and start treating patients with intellectual disabilities.

Education for both athlete and family is an important component of the Healthy Athlete program. Although some treatment is available during the Healthy Athletes screening, athletes are often referred to physicians in their hometowns. Herring said the physicians associated with the program usually knows someone in the area who treats individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The best news: four new doctors received training this weekend!

Thanks to all the health professionals who worked this weekend, and also to the sponsors who provided glasses, frames and sports goggles: Essilor, Safilo and Liberty.

Thank you!

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