Community health and nutrition screening for Special Olympics athletes.

Since 1961, Special Olympics has provided sports training and athletic competition for people with mental retardation. A recent addition to these Olympics has been the Healthy Athletes Program, designed to help the athletes improve their health and fitness, leading to enhanced sports experiences and well being. Original health services included dental and eye screening. In 2002, Special Olympics Delaware piloted a Wellness Park to add nutrition, blood pressure, and flexibility screening. Faculty from a university’s health college trained discipline-specific students to conduct the screenings. Thirty nutrition and dietetics students measured height, weight, waist circumference, and calculated body mass index (BMI) for the athletes. Figures and risk-assessments were recorded on a “health report card.” Two hundred ten athletes attended the nutrition screening. Ages ranged from 8 to 63 years; 81 percent males and 19 percent females. According to BMI standards, 32 percent of the athletes were overweight; 17 percent were obese. Twenty-five percent of adult males and 73 percent of adult females had a high risk waist circumference. Athletes at high risk for obesity-related diseases were referred to their primary physician for follow up. Nutrition education handouts included a simplified Food Guide Pyramid, tips for healthy eating in restaurants, 5 A Day information, and healthful hydration guides. Approximately 1,250 athletes participate in Special Olympics Delaware each year, providing a great opportunity to do some much needed health screening and improve access to health care for this often neglected population.