Inclusive health is becoming a reality not just a dream.

Special Olympics with the support of the Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation is working to end health disparities for people with intellectual disabilities


The Need

An estimated 200 million people around the world have intellectual disabilities, many of whom suffer needlessly with chronic pain and disease because they lack access to basic health care.

People with intellectual disabilities:

  • are 2X more likely to die before age 50 than adults without intellectual disabilities
  • are 6X times more likely to die from COVID than the general population 
  • die on average 16-20 years sooner than the general population.

More often than not, these deaths are preventable and result from treatable conditions, like constipation, seizures and heart disease.

This happens in the U.S. and in every other country around the world. 

Even after a health need has been identified, many people with intellectual disabilities find it difficult if not impossible to get essential follow up care. And where would they go for care when over half of medical school deans and students report that graduates are not competent to treat people with intellectual disabilities?

What We're Doing

$100+ million donated to support inclusive health globally

Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation have stepped up providing more than $100 million to improve the health of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by expanding access to inclusive health. 

This includes the global partnership with Special Olympics to launch and expand the successful Healthy Communities program, contributing more than $67 million to change the game and assure that people with intellectual disabilities can access health care in their communities year-round.

In addition, since 2012 more than $28 million has been contributed to support innovative community health centers and educational initiatives. These centers are pioneers and leaders in their fields – serving as national models of collaboration to achieve inclusive health.

Golisano Support of Community-based Innovative Centers that Promote Inclusive Health

  • Golisano Center for Special Needs at Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital  opened in April 2021 and provides comprehensive, coordinated and scientifically based medical and behavioral care for children and adolescents with all types of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). It acts as the umbrella, creating a framework to increase collaboration resulting in better patient care and centralize programs and services. Tom Golisano made a gift of $3 million to establish the Golisano Center for Special Needs at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. The Center's announcement was made by Golisano Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital's 10th birthday celebration in September 2019. Golisano made the hospital's naming gift of $6 million in 2005.

  • Golisano Medical Oncology Center at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center - Tom Golisano committed $1.5 million to support this new $2 million Center at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to improve access to cancer treatment for people in Niagara County. The new Center opened in July 2020 and is operated by Memorial in affiliation with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the top cancer centers in the United States. The Center brings a better system of cancer care to the people in Niagara County, providing cancer care for all residents including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a population that often falls through the cracks of complex health care systems, and specialty care including early detection, cancer screening immunotherapy, hematology, chemotherapy infusion, clinical trials and the newest cancer curing drugs.
  • Golisano Behavioral Health and Wellness Building, opened June 18, 2020 to address the rising need for pediatric behavioral health in the Rochester, NY region and provide the greater Rochester community with a new, critically-needed home base for child and adolescent behavioral health services. The two-story, 36,000 square foot facility immediately doubled the available space for outpatient and partial hospitalization services for the Golisano Children's Hospital (GCH) Pediatric Behavioral Health and Wellness Program, and helps GCH meet the increasing demand for child behavioral health services in the Finger Lakes region. The new center, which broke ground in spring of 2019, helps patients with depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other behavioral and emotional conditions. Tom Golisano contributed $5 million for this critically needed center.  
  • Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College - this new model of inclusion, fitness, and wellness for athletes with intellectual disabilities opened October 21, 2019. It is the first of its kind collaboration for athletes of all abilities and all ages that levels the playing field. Tom Golisano made a gift of $7.5 million toward the new Center. People with intellectual disabilities were considered in every aspect of the design and construction of the 108,000-square-foot facility. The Genesee region's more than 3,000 Special Olympics athletes who participate in more than 30 regional competitions annually train at the Center.
  • Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing - is the first institute of its kind in the country, and has local, national, and international impact.  Fully integrated into Fisher’s Wegmans School of Nursing it is designed to transform the health care and support of individuals with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to generate an international cadre of health care professionals prepared with the knowledge, professional skills, and competencies to effectively support individuals with Developmental Disabilities (DD) throughout the life span and across settings. In 2021 The Golisano Fellowship in Developmental Disability Nursing was launched, a 12-month program designed to develop nursing thought leaders who support and promote the health and well-being of persons with ID/DD across their lifespan and settings. St. John Fisher College, Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation announced the creation of the Golisano Institute on October 30, 2018, which was made possible with a $5.8 million gift including $5 million from Tom Golisano and $800,000 from the Golisano Foundation. A second gift of $5 million was announced on December 4, 2023 by Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation to support the Institute's continued growth and expansion.
  • Golisano Autism Center Rochester expands and enhances autism services to serve the more than 10,000 people diagnosed with autism in the Greater Rochester and surrounding areas. Tom Golisano and the Foundation donated $2.5 million to build the new center, which opened September 12, 2019. It is transforming the delivery of autism services in the region. A comprehensive, enriched and innovative new model co-locates resources offered by autism service providers, who work collaboratively under one roof — experts in ASD knowledge, and in their specific services areas. This one-stop approach to accessing a wide variety of supports is transformative. Family Navigators are available on-site to help connect families with on-site providers, services and supports within the Center.
  • Golisano Center for Community Health - opened in 2016 at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center in Niagara Falls, NY and provides comprehensive integrated health care services to adults with special needs and their families, breaking down barriers to care, preventing individuals from falling through the cracks and helping them live with dignity. It was built with the support of a gift of $3.5 million from Tom Golisano.

Golisano Supported Inclusive Health Work Globally

Since 2012, Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation have partnered with Special Olympics to launch and expand Healthy Communities, contributing more than $67 million as of 2021, to change the game and assure that people with intellectual disabilities could access health care in their communities year-round. With a vision, commitment, and collaboration with the right partners, we deliver results. Special Olympics:

  • Has a vast global network in place to reach more people with intellectual disabilities than any other organization.
  • Is the world's largest global public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Maintains the largest global database in existence of health information for people with intellectual disabilities.

Capstone Report - 2016 - 2021

This report looks back on five years of Special Olympics Health work from 2016 to 2021. Healthy Communities is addressing the issues that create health inequities for people with intellectual disabilities and it is clear that the partnership between the Golisano Foundation and Special Olympics has made some extraordinary strides in inclusive health.

  • The gap between the identification of a health problem and receiving the appropriate care is closing.
  • Health professionals and students around the globe are being trained to deliver a higher quality of care to people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Parents and athletes are being activated as health advocates.
  • Ongoing health andfitness programming is helping people with intellectual disabilities live longer and healthier lives

Despite the successes achieved to date, this work is not close to completion. The next five years will be even more exciting and filled with new possibilities, as Special Olympics seeks to grow its health footprint and reach an ever-expanding population in need. This will be accomplished by modernizing and further utilizing technology to allow for better electronic data collection, dissemination of information, and realization of measurable results faster through more evidence-based interventions.

Special Olympics Center for Inclusive Health

Inclusive health is essential buy it takes a collective effort to make it happen. Organizations across the public health system can take action to remove barriers and improve access for people with ID to their services, as their patients, customers, beneficiaries, and clients.

See Resources, What You Can Do and How to Get Involved

COVID-19 Information & Resources

Special Olympics Health Research and Evaluation

These resources may be used to inform others about the health status of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and how Special Olympics programming is changing knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and health outcomes at the individual and systems levels. Evaluating this impact is critical to the Special Olympics movement.

News & Key Events


Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards Presented in Berlin

Berlin, Germany – June 19, 2023 – The fourth Global Golisano Health Leadership Awards were presented today at the Special Olympics World Games. The awards showcase the impactful work of Special Olympics and the Golisano Foundation to surmount the healthcare barriers faced by people with intellectual disabilities worldwide and push for more collaboration with public and private partners—critical to meeting this challenges. Read more


Ann Costello Visits South Africa to See Impact of Special Olympics Global Health Work

POLOKWANE, LIMPOPO – November 17-19, 2022 – Ann Costello, the Golisano Foundation Executive Director, visted this year’s Special Olympics South Africa National Games to witness the impact Tom Golisano's and the Golisano Foundation's global gifts have made on community health care for people with intellectual disabilities in South Africa. Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation have partnered with Special Olympics International on Healthy Communities, a global initiative on inclusive health, contributing more than $67 million over the past 10 years. Read more


2022 Global Golisano Health Leadership Awards Presented

September 19, 2022 – New York City, USA – Special Olympics and the Golisano Foundation celebrated a decade of global health accomplishments and trailblazers today at the Global Inclusive Health Leadership Summit and 2022 Global Golisano Health Leadership Awards presentation. Read more


Tom Golisano Donates $30 Million to Special Olympics to Expand Critical Health Services Globally for People with Intellectual Disabilities

September 16, 2021– Special Olympics announced that it has received $30 million, its largest single private gift in the organization's 53-year history from Tom Golisano. This is Tom's third major gift to Special Olympics and his largest single gift to any organization. Funds will used to expand the Special Olympics Healthy Communities program, which provides health services globally for people with intellectual disabilities (ID), a population that has been critically undeserved, especially during the pandemic. “I am pleased to continue financial support for Special Olympics’ extraordinary health work, which is giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved access to health services and the opportunity to live happier, more productive lives,” said Golisano. “Special Olympics’ impact on the health of people with ID is impressive – as is its strategy on how to build on this success over the next several years. The focus on measurement, standardization of practices, early diagnosis, a trained workforce, and health systems that demonstrate inclusive policies, will effectively position Special Olympics to further our mutual goal of health equity.”  Read more


2019 Special Olympics Reach Report Released

The 2019 Reach Report is a summary of key regional and global programmatic results achieved globally in the framework of its activities conducted in the previous year. Most health data were reported on an April 2019-April 2020 cycle. Any slight decrease is due to the impact of COVID-19 on accessing office records and in-person screenings.

  • Healthy Athletes Screenings: In 2019, Special Olympics Health conducted more than 157,000 free Healthy Athletes screenings around the globe.
  • Healthy Communities: In 2019, Special Olympics Health achieved the goal of 100 Special Olympics Programs worldwide participating in Healthy Communities.
  • 45 Programs achieved Healthy Community recognition status in 2019.
  • Health Professionals Trained: In 2019, more than 36,000 professionals were trained in best ways to work and communicate with people with ID – a crucial part of the #InclusiveHealth campaign.
  • Community Engagement: 2019 saw a major increase in the number of families, caregivers and athlete leaders activated to be health advocates—now numbering more than 7,000. That marks a more than 200% jump from the previous year.

Photo: Pan-African Games Health Screenings 2020

Special Olympics has created and shared a wide range of resources for athletes, coaches, volunteers, families and more around the world:


2018-19 Special Olympics Health Report Released

Special Olympics 2018-19 Report Cover

2019-19 Special Olympics Health Reach Report -- In Healthy Communities, the gap between identification and referral to treatment is closing through community partner engagement, ongoing wellness programming, and advocacy training. Since July 2012, Special Olympics has partnered with the Golisano Foundation to improve the health status of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and increase their access to quality health care and services. This report covers the work that has occurred through Special Olympics Health from  April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.  Special Olympics is driving change in communities and influencing health systems around the world to create a tipping point for inclusive health for all people with ID. This report covers three main focus areas that align with the five-year strategic plan for Special Olympics Health: the programmatic activities of Special Olympics, how Special Olympics is influencing and driving inclusive health systems, and the ways in which members of the Special Olympics community are activated to build awareness.

Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello Visits Kenya to See Progress of Healthy Communities

Ann Costello Visits Kenya

August 15-17, 2019––It was a week of hope for Special Olympics Kenya when Ann Costello visited to see the progress of Healthy Communities. The initiative to expand access to inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities was launched in 2012 and expanded in 2015 with gifts of $37 million from Tom Golisano and has improved the health of people in Kenya with intellectual disabilities.

Video – The Golisano Foundation in Kenya: A Champion for Inclusive Health

Kenya Visit Photo Album August 2019

Boost for athletes with intellectual disability – Daily Nation – Aug 15, 2019

Special Olympics Kenya gets thumbs up from US company – Standard Media Kenya – Aug 15, 2019


Special Olympics Health Programmatic Activities

Healthy Athletes Reach

(As of April 2018)


Global Health Program is Targeting Health-care Disparities for People with Intellectual Disabilities


Special Olympics has the unique ability to reach people with intellectual disabilities around the world, making it possible to target health-care disparities and bring them improved health.

  • In 2017, there were 195,471 Healthy Athletes screenings worldwide.
  • There have been more than 2.1 million screenings since Healthy Athletes began in 1997.
  • More than 240,000 healthcare professionals have been trained to date.
  • More than 135 countries have held Healthy Athletes events.
  • 18 Special Olympics Programs received Healthy Community status – and 51 more programs are in progress.
  • 33,130 health care professionals volunteer.

Healthy Communities in 2017

Healthy Communities locations as of 2017 are marked in purple: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Bangladesh, Belgium, British Columbia,  Chile,  Connecticut,  China, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Florida, Hawaii, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nebraska, Netherlands, New Jersey, Nigeria, North Carolina,  Mauritius, Mexico, Missouri, Mongolia, Ontario, Paraguay, Poland, Prince Edward Island, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, Wisconsin

Partnering with Special Olympics, each day we are opening new doors to inclusive health around the world. Our goal is to to achieve 100 Healthy Communities worldwide and improve access to quality health for 11 million people with intellectual disabilities by 2020.

Reaching both of these targets requires changing, influencing and strengthening communities, governments, organizations and the healthcare system. Special Olympics is doing this through influencing the reform of national health systems, training healthcare providers, developing partnerships to connect Special Olympics athletes to follow-up care in their communities and through partnering with organizations, governments and companies to make inclusive health changes a priority.


Recognizing Health Champions – Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards Launched in 2016

Golisano Global Heathcare Award Winners 2016

In 2016 in Austria at the Special Olympics World Winter Games we recognized the extraordinary results achieved with the first Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards

The Golisano Health Leadership Awards recognize health champions - leaders and organizations - that are making a significant contribution to equal access to health, fitness and/or wellness for people with intellectual disabilities. The awards also promote awareness for the progress and extraordinary efforts toward fulfilling the goals, values, and mission of Special Olympics health program. This is the highest Special Olympics honor for health partners.

There are four primary goals for these awards, distributed by local Special Olympics Programs:

1. Recognize those who are making a significant contribution to increasing access to inclusive health, fitness and/or wellness in the communities in which people with intellectual disabilities live.

2. Raise overall awareness of the issues of health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities.

3. Inspire, motivate and recognize stakeholders, while engaging the broader health-focused Special Olympics audience to seek to replicate areas of success and key initiatives and partnerships.

4. Honor individuals and organizations committed to equitable health services for people with intellectual disabilities.


$25 Million Gift from Tom Golisano Will Help Expand Healthy Communities Globally

$25 Million Gift from Tom Golisano Will Help Expand Healthy Communities Globally

In 2015 in Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Summer Games Golisano Foundation Director, Ann Costello, announced that based on the success of Healthy Communities in the first three years, Tom Golisano would contribute $25 million more to expand Healthy Communities to more places around the world, to 100 communities by 2020. This was again the largest single gift Special Olympics had received from an individual and brought Tom’s investment in increasing global access to inclusive health with Special Olympics to $37 million. 

The progress continues in more than 80 Healthy Communities programs now active in 54 countries on 6 continents around the world. Special Olympics is engaging with more universities to better prepare their students to meet the needs of people with intellectual disability. Now 84% of health providers feel better prepared to treat people with intellectual disabilities as a result of volunteering with Special Olympics. 

The health of Special Olympics athletes is a key component of Special Olympics 2016-20 Strategic Plan. As part of the focus on improving athlete performance, Special Olympics is expanding its year-round focus on health and wellness programming. Special Olympics will be expanding its health program with the all-pervading goal of more inclusive societies where athletes are equipped to achieve their strongest performances on and off the field. 

Special Olympics Programs are taking the next step to becoming Healthy Communities by implementing new three-year grants to focus on expanding their health work and impact. The Programs include: Arkansas, Australia, British Columbia, China, Connecticut, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Egypt, Florida, Hawaii, Kenya, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Samoa and Uganda. 

Healthy Communities is demonstrating that health remains a priority for the Special Olympics movement.


Healthy Communities is launched with gift of $12 Million from Tom Golisano to Special Olympics to take health care into the communities where people live

Tom GOlisano Announces $12 Million gift to Special Olympics at CGI

Photo Gallery – $12 Million Gift to Special Olympics to Launch Healthy Communities

2012 was a pivotal year for people with intellectual disabilities.

On September 13, 2012 at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City, Tom Golisano announced his initial gift of $12 million to launch Healthy Communities, an initiative to provide access to health care for people with intellectual disabilities into the communities where they live and beyond episodic health screenings at sports events.

Healthy Communities takes the principles of the Healthy Athletes program and expands them from a series of single events to a steady presence in the lives of our athletes and their families that includes a focus on follow-up care, wellness opportunities, access and education. This was the largest single gift ever received by Special Olympics.

What started with a series of conversations with Tom and Special Olympics (SO) Chairman Tim Shriver, has grown to become a movement that is advancing inclusive health in many communities around the world. It began with a pilot that included six US states (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York) and eight countries (Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand and Kazakhstan). From remote villages in rural Malawi, to small towns in Peru, to top universities across the world to clinics in New York and Kansas, Healthy Communities began to transform the way communities, clinics, governments, businesses and sports address health and wellness for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Healthy Communities was built on SO Healthy Athletes screening program, which has been highly successful providing health examinations for athletes at competitions but had limited ability to connect athletes with year-round quality health care. 

It marked the start of an entirely new health programming model for Special Olympics, Healthy Communities.

This was not an easy task in any respect. But we took a highly strategic approach and focused on four key areas:

1. Infuse expanded health and wellness services, including those focused on diseases of extreme poverty, into all Special Olympics’ worldwide, year-round events & programming.
2. Create local Healthy Community networks for health providers engaged in Special Olympics' health work.
3. Create global Healthy Communities coalition of leading universities, businesses, non government organizations and governments that supports Specila Olympic's health work & increases access to health resources & services through macro-level action.
4. Develop world class bio-informatics to monitor health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities to measure progress, inform public policy leaders, and demand health justice worldwide.

The results of the pilot were impressive.

  • Follow-up care began to be available in people’s communities.
  • Partnerships were created to leverage the expertise and resources needed to reduce barriers to care and provide an opportunity to raise awareness and engage volunteers.
  • Under-served rural areas expanded health exams for athletes and others with ID.
  • Universities around the world began to change curricula to train the next generation of health care professionals to care for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Technology and electronic health data collection was being used to allow for easier registration of athletes into the public healthcare system.


First and Largest Regional Train the Trainer Program Held

Clinical Directors for Healthy Athletes at NY Train the Trainer Event

The Golisano Foundation partnered with Special Olympics in 2010 to host first regional "Train the Trainer” event, increasing the number of Clinical Directors to screen Special Olympic athletes and forging partnerships with local health care providers.

“This was the largest regional Healthy Athletes training program ever held, and we hope it will serve as a model for future such events throughout the United States,” said Ann Costello, Director of the Golisano Foundation. 

With the help of the Golisano Foundation, 40 doctors and other health care professionals from New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia, California, and Washington, D.C., were trained through the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program to screen individuals with intellectual disabilities participating in Special Olympics events.
Special Olympics senior clinicians led the training September 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Rochester, and Saturday September 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Thornell Farms Park, where 500 Special Olympics athletes participating in the Special Olympics New York Fall Classic Game and the majority received free health care screenings. 

  • In addition to the Golisano Foundation’s support, Tom Golisano made a personal donation of $150,000 to Special Olympics at a dinner following training on September 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Radisson. 
  • Golisano also threw out the ceremonial ball during the Games’ opening ceremonies on Saturday.

“I am pleased to play a role to enhance the Healthy Athletes program and am confidant that Special Olympics International will continue to break new ground, expand access and improve the quality of health care for individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said Golisano. “I look forward to great progress over the next few years on this important and exciting initiative.”
Tom Golisano Cheers on Special Olympics athletesExpanding training and increasing the number of health care professionals capable of providing screenings at Special Olympics events will help meet the unmet healthcare needs of people with intellectual disabilities, and ensure that athletes can receive follow-up care. 
Data at the time (2010) revealed through Healthy Athletes painted an overwhelming need for comprehensive health care among people with intellectual disabilities.  

  • More than 75% of Special Olympics athletes in U.S. were overweight or obese.
  • 30% of Special Olympics athletes failed hearing tests – a rate more than six times the national average;
  • 35% had untreated vision issues, could not see well, and/or needed new or different prescription glasses, while 6% had serious untreated eye diseases;
  • 35% of athletes had obvious tooth decay in their molar teeth, up to 50% have obvious gum infections, 12% reported being in pain at the time of the exam, and 15% required urgent care;
  • 20% had evidence of osteoporosis or osteopenia (weakened bones). 

Inclusive Health Related News & Resources


Special Olympics Health Annual Report 2019 - 2020

Special Olympics Health Annual Report 2018 - 2019

Special Olympics Health Annual Report 2017– 2018

Special Olympics Reach Report 2017

Healthy Communities Year 2 Progress Report

Healthy Communities Year 1 Progress Report


Special Olympics Health

Special Olympics Health Case Statement

Inclusive Health Key Stats

Center for Inclusive Health – a virtual hub for health care providers, fitness and wellness professionals, professional associations, and businesses to find resources to become more inclusive

Inclusive Health Principles and Strategies: How to make your Practices Inclusive of People with Intellectual Disabilities

American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry

Health Research

Health and Intellectual Disability

Healthy Communities

Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards

In the News

RIT honors Tom Golisano’s contributions as Champion for Global Health in new exhibit – Golisano Archives exhibit shares philanthropist’s commitment to Special Olympics and empowering people with intellectual disabilities

What Health Care Can and Should Be – Ann Costello, on Huffington Post

Special Olympics Receives Largest Gift in History from Tom Golisano – $25 million to expand Special Olympics' health services globally for people with intellectual disabilities, a population that lacks access to adequate healthcare and faces significant health disparities, July 2015

Tom Golisano Gives $12 million to Expand Special Olympics Health Services Worldwide

Photos: Planing for Healthy Communities in Florida

Latest Updates and News – Special Olympics Healthy Communities Web site