Special Olympics and the Hear the World Foundation recently formed a global partnership to increase access to health care and hearing services for people with intellectual disabilities. This partnership, launched at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens, introduced a new Remote Access Model (RAM), connecting athletes in need with a hearing aid distributor in their home country for follow-up care.
Amin Muhammad, one of the athletes from Jordan who received a free hearing aid thanks to Healthy Hearing and Hear the World, gets his new device fitted.
The partnership is focused on providing Special Olympics athletes in need with free, high quality hearing instruments that will provide a life changing health intervention, as well as a ‘hearing home’ for follow up services. This partnership has helped transform the way in which Healthy Hearing implements global programming, and has also helped demonstrate the global corporate social responsibility that Phonak, through the Hear the World Foundation, represents to those most in need.
Healthy Athletes Update spoke with Dr. Ali Alshawahin on the impact this partnership has had in Jordan and throughout the MENA region.
Dr. Ali, as National Director of Special Olympics Jordan, can you share with us your perspective on the access to health care issues that our population faces both in Jordan and perhaps throughout the Middle East/North Africa region?
"According to our sources, health care in Jordan is generally advanced; almost 80% of Jordan’s population are covered by health insurance, however, services provided to people with intellectual disabilities are still below average.
Considering health issues in our region and ways to achieve the maximum of its services, we could divide them to the following 3 levels:
Level 1: Wealthy countries that cover all needs concerning health issues in all their aspects. They however represent a minority in our region.
Level 2: Countries of medium income that provide limited health care due to the high expenses of health care services. However, these countries try to distribute prosthetic devices.
Level 3: poor countries that cannot provide any health care or prosthetic devices."
How has this partnership helped benefit the athletes of SO Jordan who participated in the World Summer Games in Athens?
"The partnership between Special Olympics and the Hear the World Foundation will surly support Special Olympics athletes to a great deal, for most intellectually disabled people are poor and many countries cannot afford providing devices and hearing aids for them. Special Olympics Jordan’s athletes who benefit from this initiative gratefully thank the institute that provides them with these aids which they would not have been able to afford."
As National Director of SO Jordan, how will this health intervention help our athletes both on and off the playing field (ie, in school, at home, in the community)?
"From my point of view as a specialist in special education and the director of Special Olympics Jordan, I consider health intervention and providing hearing aids will facilitate athletes’ lives and give them better chances to be an active part of their community and participate in their daily activities whether they were athletic, educational or simply communicating with their families and society."
How do these types of services help not only the athletes but also the larger family?
"Providing hearing aids will decrease pressures that athletes and their families face, whether they were psychological or financial, thus this partnership will provide many solutions to the obstacles faced by families to support their children."
Is this an initiative that you believe could help more athletes both in Jordan and throughout the Middle East/North Africa region? Do you see a growing need for these types of services as part of the Special Olympics platform of increased health services and interventions for our athletes?
"I strongly believe that this initiative will be crucial in providing services that will cover a great percentage of people with intellectual disabilities whether it was on the national or regional level, actually it will even have a global effect; for most of Special Olympics athletes are either poor or live in poor countries that cannot afford those hearing aids, so this will provide athletes with means of communication with others in their daily life.
"Finally I think that Healthy Athletes Program has a main role in providing actual services that have their positive impact on people with intellectual disabilities, aiding them to overcome the obstacles they and their families face to give equal opportunities to achieve inclusion and independent lives."
Thank you, Dr. Ali.