Inclusive Health

Special Olympics International


The American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD) and Special Olympics International (SOI) will collaborate on a 5 year cooperative agreement funded by the CDC, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) to create a tipping point for inclusive health of people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID), whereby the inclusion of those with ID becomes normalized in mainstream health policies, programming and services, training programs and funding streams.

An Enabling Environment

The project will continue to utilize the approach depicted in the Social Ecological Framework by implementing local health promotion programming, to include SOI Healthy Athletes program, creating an enabling environment with augmented community support mechanism, and strengthening the nation’s capacity for inclusive health.   The long term impact of the project is to create access to quality health prevention and are for future generations of people with ID.  The network of 52 Special Olympics (SO) Programs along with SOI will work together to achieve the project’s outcomes. Essential to this project, is the role of key health influencers on a state and national level must be targeted for this initiative and mobilized to include change.

Focus on the Leading Health Disparity

Due to the numerous disparities that exist within the health of people with ID, the project will focus on the leading health disparity within the population, obesity to begin progress towards reaching the tipping point for inclusive health and create a model for addressing other disparities.  Obesity is identified as the leading health disparity for people with ID, however, there is a lack of education and training for health influencers to help combat obesity inclusively.  Lack of environmental supports to achieve healthy weight causes rates for individuals with ID to be 28.9% -50.5% or two times higher than those with ID. By providing training tools and resources to health influencers to deliver inclusive programs in the community, this project will be educating those who can aid in creating an enabling environment to achieve healthy weight and other health disparities affecting the broader community.

Information Dissemination and Outreach

SOI will be directly partnering with the American Association on Health and Disability, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Disability on this project.  AAHD’s role will be in the area of information dissemination and outreach, both internally to SOI programs and externally to health influencers.  AAHD will disseminate resources created by Special Olympics health programs to both SO programs and external organizations and influencers. AAHD will review external resources that are of value to SO programs internally for use in local programming.  AAHD will be involved in material review and identification of evidenced based practices of value to the SO community.  Ultimately, public awareness of the health needs of people with ID will increase through AAHD strategic dissemination and outreach strategies.  An Advisory Panel will be formed to provide additional guidance on identifying relevant evidenced based materials and develop dissemination strategies.  AAHD will also monitor national health care policy that impacts people with ID.

Special Olympics Resources:

  • Healthy Communities Resources Page
    This is housed on the internal resources page, providing SO Programs all of the information on project planning and grant requirements, tips and tools on wellness programs, follow up care, athlete leadership, and health data.
  • Research Resources Page
    This is housed on the internal resources page, providing a summary of all the areas of SO programming (such as Sports and Games), including key research findings, and additional research articles to the specific programming areas.
  • Healthy Athletes Resources Page
    This is also housed on the internal resources page, providing all the resources in each of the Healthy Athletes disciplines to SO Programs, Clinical Directors, and others.
  • Overview of the 2016 US Healthy Community Grantees 



The American Association on Health and Disability will be collaborating with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) on a five year cooperative agreement funded by the CDC, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Inclusive Health Communities

Reversing the disproportionately higher rates of obesity among children and adults with disability requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach that uses policy, system and environmental change (PSE) to transform communities into inclusive health communities that support and promote healthy lifestyle choices for people with disability. NCHPAD will use a new knowledge-to-practice framework (N-KATS, NCHPAD Knowledge Adaptation, Translation and Scale up) to achieve three short-term and five intermediate outcomes.

Four Sequenced Phases

The N-KATS framework contains four sequenced phases.

  • Phase I involves the collection of existing evidence-based programs and models in physical activity, nutrition and obesity that are reviewed, catalogued and systematically adapted with a new tool (GRAIDs, Guidelines, Recommendations and Adaptations Including Disability) that separates the core components of a program into five recommendation and adaptation domains (built environment, equipment, services, instructional, policy). 15 GRAID accessibility criteria are used to ensure strong fidelity between and within program adaptations.
  • Phase II focuses on the dissemination of resources, materials, and tools to early adopters and ‘shovel-ready’ programs through national networks and partnerships.
  • Phase III provides inclusive health promotion training to a select group of service providers with Center staff serving as facilitators.
  • And Phase IV captures successful elements of community health inclusion (i.e., PSEs) through a comprehensive data collection system that efficiently and effectively scales ‘best practices’ to a growing number of communities nationwide.


In the aggregate, these four phases are aimed at accomplishing three short-term (STO) and five intermediate (IO) outcomes:

  • Increased availability and use of community models, tools, and resources (STO1);
  • Increased knowledge and awareness of health risk factors in people with disability (STO2);
  • Improved collaboration with partners (STO3);
  • Improved evidence base for health promotion programs (IO1);
  • Increased adoption of inclusive programmatic, policy, systems, and environmental changes (IO2);
  • Increased participation in evidence-based and innovative health promotion programs (IO3);
  • Improved organizational capacity to serve communities across the U.S. (IO4);
  • and Improved data collection methods to capture successful ‘best practices’(IO5).

With NCHPAD’s new knowledge-to-practice framework (N-KATS), the Center now has the capacity to build and expand upon successful, inclusive ‘best practices’ that can transform communities into places that support and promote healthy lifestyles for the more than 50 million Americans with disability.

Partner Expansion and Material and Resource Dissemination

Partner expansion and material and resource dissemination is a key component of the NCHPAD project.  AAHD will be involved in the pieces of the cooperative agreement that focus on dissemination, outreach and evaluation.  AAHD has been a formal partner with NCHPAD since 2012 and has worked with NCHPAD staff since 2002.

Please visit the NCHPAD website at to learn more about this initiative and the outstanding work that is being conducted at the University of Alabama and the Lakeshore Foundation.

Recently released Guidelines on Disability Inclusion on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity: click here.  Also click on guidelines on the right of this page.

Lakeshore Foundation

The Lakeshore Foundation is located in Birmingham, Alabama and is an internationally renowned organization. Lakeshore Foundation works closely with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, AL. Lakeshore is open to anyone in the community and state living with a physical disability.  Lakeshore is a training facility for the Paralympics. Lakeshore is currently involved in providing training for 12 competitive sports,14 local, national and global advocacy initiatives, 92 aquatic, fitness and recreation programs, and 25 research projects.

The mission of Lakeshore Foundation is to enable people with a physical disability and chronic health condition to lead healthy, active and independent lifestyles through physical activity sport, recreation, advocacy, policy and research.  The vision of Lakeshore Foundation is to improve the lives of people with physical disability around the world.  The values of Lakeshore Foundation are passion, creating opportunities, integrity, and changing expectations.

Areas of Policy Change

Lakeshore’s advocacy agenda is essentially about policy changes in three areas:

  1. Creating policies where they do not exist
  2. Refining harmful and ineffective policies, and
  3. Ensuring good policies are followed, implemented and enforced.

AAHD is honored to serve as Lakeshore’s “advocacy” voice in Washington, DC.  For further information about the AAHD and lakeshore Foundation partnership, please email

Please visit the Lakeshore Foundation at