Special Olympics Uses Mobile Healthcare to Help Disabled Athletes

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By Lily Chester

The Special Olympics has pioneered a web-based personal health record aimed at empowering athletes to optimize their own health outcomes by using mobile health technology. At the 2011 Special Olympics World Games in Athens, three thousand seven hundred and fifty one sportsmen and sportswomen from one hundred and sixty different countries were given free health screenings by a Special Olympics global partner company called Health One Global Ltd. Two thirds failed eye screenings, forty-six percent had untreated tooth decay, eight percent had raised blood pressure and required urgent follow up, fifteen percent required urgent dental treatment and twenty-two percent failed hearing screenings. Twenty-six percent had never received an eye examination before. Volunteers who carried out the screenings expressed concern that if the athletes could not even receive proper check ups then they might be suffering from kidney disease, lung disease, heart disease or untreated diabetes and failing to get treatment for these conditions.

Officials at the Special Olympics came to the conclusion that the best way of helping these disabled sportsmen and sportswomen was to devise a mobile healthcare system involving reminders and automatic alerts being sent to Special Olympians’ phones. Over three and half million athletes from more than one hundred and seventy different countries take part in over fifty thousand Special Olympics events every year, meaning that the organization can utilize mobile healthcare technology to help a significant number of people. Two thousand two hundred and eighty one athletes were surveyed at the World Special Olympics Games in Athens and forty-two percent of them owned a mobile phone, suggesting that millions of people would benefit from the system.

Transforming Co-ordination of Care

Chairman of Health One Global Ltd Dr Stan Shepherd says that the mobile healthcare technology that the Special Olympics are putting in place will allow the athletes to take control of their own health. This will enable them to retain their independence whilst at the same time being reminded of important health-related events. Dr Shepherd has stated that it will transform co-ordination of care and help to overcome the barriers of gender, race, age, literacy, education, poverty and disability that are preventing some of the competing sportsmen and sportswomen from getting the treatment that they need. He points out that Special Olympics athletes’ needs mirror the needs of many other disadvantaged populations and suggests that similar mobile healthcare systems could help other demographics that might not be getting themselves checked out on a regular basis.

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