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Supporting a stronger Special Olympics

Special Olympics International has found an ally in technology. The non-profit organization has learned that fact-gathering is essential to raising money, influencing public policy and generally advancing its cause. One way the organization does that is through predictive analytics software.

Special Olympics uses sports training and competition to help individuals with intellectual disabilities become physically fit, productive and respected members of society. A 2003 study concluded that while most people think the quality of healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities is the same or better than that received by the general population, the opposite is the case. Data collected and analyzed by the organization and by predictive analytics software indicates that people with such disabilities actually receive poor access to quality healthcare and encounter significant health disparities.

To improve access to healthcare for its athletes, Special Olympics created a Healthy Athletes initiative, which provides free vision, dental, hearing, podiatric, physical fitness and other screenings at its events. The organization chose SPSS Predictive Analytics software to collect and analyze information.

"The software supports our mission to act as advocates for our athletes by allowing Special Olympics to make a solid case for improved quality and access to healthcare for populations worldwide," says Darcie Mersereau, senior manager of research and evaluation at Special Olympics International. "We are able to demonstrate that these findings are not unique to individuals, but rather shared by athletes all over the world."

SPSS reports that its software enables Special Olympics to understand, for example, how various health circumstances may serve as indicators of the possible presence of other conditions. Low bone density may also be an indication of future hearing loss, for instance. Using the information, Special Olympics is able to more appropriately guide athletes through the Healthy Athletes screening process.

Mersereau adds, "With our analysis completed with SPSS software, Special Olympics can validate the need for increased focus on this issue. We’re able to inform a multitude of opinion leaders, non-governmental organizations and government officials of the need for improved healthcare, program support and public policy."

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