Vol. 12 No. 5 - December, 2009

Healthy competition

UMMS and Special Olympics Massachusetts are partnering to improve health care access for individuals with intellectual disabilities

soecial olympics web
The 2010 Winter Games will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14, 2010. Volunteers of all ages are welcome.

Last February, more than 1,400 athletes competed in sporting events held in and around Worcester as part of the Special Olympics Massachusetts 2009 Winter Games. Hundreds of volunteers kept score, recorded times and cheered on the athletes who competed in basketball, alpine skiing, snowboarding, floor hockey and bowling during the annual two-day event.

Among those volunteers were many members of the UMMS community, including students, faculty and staff, who donated their time in support of the partnership between UMMS and the Special Olympics. This affiliation, which was established in December 2008, outlines opportunities for collaboration that are centered on the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative to improve health care access and quality for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Both organizations have supported the affiliation in several key areas.

At the 2009 Winter Games in February, UMMS students conducted the Healthy Athletes Health Promotion program, one of seven health screenings offered free of charge at Special Olympics competitions to educate athletes on healthy lifestyle choices and identify problems that may need follow-up. For the upcoming 2010 Winter Games, the Graduate School of Nursing will coordinate this program, which will take place along with screenings for hearing, podiatry and physical fitness.

In October, Special Olympics arranged for Special Olympics athlete and speaker Colin Davidson and his mother to give a presentation to UMMS students participating in the Health Care Access for People with Disabilities Clerkship. These students also conducted patient interviews with Special Olympics Senior Sports Classic athletes as they checked in for screenings by physical therapists.

In November, the Special Olympics staff received training from the Medical School’s Academic and Research Computing IS Department for three online training modules for coaches developed by Commonwealth Medicine. And in December, the newly-constructed Yawkey Training Center in Marlborough opened as the new headquarters for Special Olympics Massachusetts. Featuring a full-size gym, soccer field, computer training facilities, video-conferencing capabilities and five multipurpose conference rooms, this facility will provide opportunities for UMMS to learn about, research and address the unique health care needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The 2010 Winter Games will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14, 2010. Volunteers of all ages are welcome and don’t need to be athletically inclined to help. More information is available online at www.specialolympicsma.org. To learn about additional UMMS-related volunteer opportunities, please visit the UMass Medicine Cares Web site.