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All for sports and life within Healthy Athletes Program
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15:19, October 07, 2007

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Over 280 doctors of 73 hospitals and 400 volunteers from local medical schools have been working hard at the Special Olympics Town, offering free checkup to the athletes at the Special Olympics World Summer Games since it started on Oct. 2.

They are working for the Healthy Athletes, an important program within Special Olympics International, conducted in the Town located in northern Shanghai's Jiangwan Stadium.

The program was developed in 1996 and designed to help Special Olympics athletes improve their health and fitness, leading to enhanced sports experience and improved well-being.

"Over 40% among the Special Olympics athletes have teeth problems, with some of them in an urgent situation," said Steven Perlman, founder of the Special Smiles, an integrating part of Healthy Athletes. "Due to their bad physical conditions, they are prone to a variety of diseases."

"But it is hard for them to get access to the treatments, as doctors don't want to take care of them.

"A large number of the athletes even don't know how to brush teeth."

At the area of Special Smiles, athletes can check in, have their teeth screened, obtain a "mouth guard", receive education on oral hygiene, and leave with souvenirs such as toothpaste and toothbrush.

The athletes will be encouraged to receive these health assessments which span across six areas in the Town, namely Fit Feet, FUNfitness, Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion, Opening Eyes and Special Smiles.

"The program is well-designed and fit for the athletes with intellectual disabilities," said He Naiyao, chief doctor of Beijing-based China Rehabilitation Research Center. "Each athlete can receive a health report including suggestions."

"It tells you how to improve the health through sports and nutrition," added the doctor, who was sent to Shanghai for the program with a contingent of medical professionals.

Besides the specialists, the volunteers are also available everywhere and help ensure those athletes with intellectual disabilities receive these screenings in a welcoming, fun environment.

As a volunteer of the Special Olympics, Belgian dentist and medical professor with the Ghent University Luc Marks rated the program as "imperative", not only in providing the checkup for those athletes who have less access to health care, but also in capturing helpful data for further studies or policy-making in government.

"We have a Healthy Athletes Software system, a web-based application, and all the data we collect will enter this system.

"The data gathered here are important for planning, programs, gaining support, improving policies and research."

At Shanghai Special Olympics, Healthy Athletes is being conducted over the whole course of the Oct. 2-11 games.

According to the data released by the Special Olympics International, the program has been developing fast in the world and 600 screening events took place last year, with nearly 135,000 athletes receiving at least one screening.

Source: Xinhua

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