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Providing inclusive accessible health care for people with an intellectual disability

Designing a video curriculum to train health care practitioners on intellectual disability and treating this population

Photo of Ancilla Smith
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What problem does your idea solve?

People with an intellectual disability (ID) in South Africa and Africa face enormous challenges and disparities in accessing health care and yet they present with more health conditions than the majority of the population. Adding to this challenge is the fact that the majority of health care workers are not trained on how to deal with people with an intellectual disability. We believe that training will help to create more inclusive and effective treatment and healthcare for people with ID

Explain your idea

We aim to reduce the disparities faced by our population by increasing the awareness of the health needs of people with ID among human sciences student at Universities and colleges in South Africa and across Africa by training on inclusive health services and by lobbying for amendments to the curriculum to provide for a better understanding of this population. Health practitioners need to be trained to be able to assess people with an intellectual disability and have practical sessions where they are able to interact with people with an intellectual disability as part of their clinical training. The training of the students can be done through a video developed specifically for the South African and African context. The practical training will take place at a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screening. There are an estimate of over 5 million people in Africa alone with an intellectual disability who will all need medical treatment at some point. The video would be able to be easily adapted to other African countries by recording a voice over in the local language. The video would also have add-ons that would train students from specific medical departments on specific requirements for their departments. All Special Olympics programs in Africa run identical health programs so they would all benefit from the development of this video.

Who benefits?

The primary beneficiaries are people with an intellectual disability. The primary beneficiaries are of all ages, sex, race and religion. The secondary beneficiaries will be the family members and caregivers of people with an intellectual disability as well as health practitioners as this will broaden their knowledge on practicing inclusive health. These benefits would apply to all African countries.

How is your idea unique?

There are currently no other initiatives that we are aware of in South Africa that are addressing this issue. We are also the only organisation in South Africa that is focused on the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities and that is promoting inclusive health for this population. Special Olympics international has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities at no cost. We will be able to bring the resources and experience from many other Special Olympics programs in Africa and across the world to bear in designing this project in South Africa. Once the project has been piloted it would be made available to all Special Olympics programs in Africa and then potentially to our other programs globally.

Tell us more about you

Special Olympics South Africa, an NGO, has been an accredited program of Special Olympics International since 1991. Currently Special Olympics South Africa provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in 18 sports to over 50 000 athletes in nine provinces. Special Olympics offers its services to all qualifying individuals, regardless of their race, gender or age. We have a robust health program and have a health manager and other staff who will be working on this idea.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We are still working on developing relationships with universities and we know that we will have to do a lot of work on cementing these relationships and convincing them to implement this training. We have begun discussions with a number of Universities who are keen to get involved with the development of the video. We have also reached out to our Regional clinical advisers and our global office for their input on this idea. We are working with the Ministry of Social Development on other projects and will involve in this project as well. We are also working on developing a relationship with the Ministries of Health and Education to lobby to have this video become a curriculum requirement.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Idea Maturity

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

We initially were looking at implementing this idea in South Africa but based on the feedback we have received from colleagues working in other African countries and from our global office we have realized that we need to look at creating a video that can easily be be adapted for use in any country in the world. From the feedback that we have received it is clear that there is a need to train health practitioners in many countries on working with people with an intellectual disability as there is no current curriculum for this. This training video will benefit the lives of an entire population of people that are currently misunderstood and not catered for in health systems in countries across Africa.

Who will implement this idea?

The idea will be implemented by the Special Olympics South Africa management and health staff and our clinical professional volunteers. We will also receive support from our global office and international health care experts. We will consult with our colleagues in the other African countries where we have programs for their input; and with universities in South Africa and the Ministry of Education.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

Our organisation is accredited by our global body but is an independent body with its own board and run by the CEO. The CEO is leading on this idea and is able to make strategic decisions independently and would be able to quickly react to changes that need to be made. The organisation is also athlete led meaning that we have people with an intellectual disability involved in the process from beginning to end. In terms of getting buy in we have already consulted with the global office and they are in full support to help to develop this idea.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

What attracted us to this funding model was the support and tools offered to help develop our idea. This would provide us with the opportunity to grow and evolve the idea through a process of learning and collaboration with the option of making necessary changes to ensure the success of the project. It can also be a work in progress where we can be open about our areas of concern where we don't have all the answers yet but are encouraged to collaborate in an open forum to seek the answers. LOVE

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

People with an intellectual disability are often deprived of access to health care and when they do get to visit a health practitioner often the practitioner had has no training or experience in dealing with intellectual disability. This leads to many problems in diagnosis and treatment. Going to see a doctor can be very intimidating and scary for someone with an intellectual disability and if they are not given the proper support and reassurance the experience can be very traumatic. The majority of people with an intellectual disability cannot read or write and many struggle to communicate making it very difficult for them to go through the normal processes associated with a doctors visit and examination. An untrained doctor could easily handle and treat this patient incorrectly

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

We aim, through the creation and implementation of this video curriculum at universities and other tertiary institutions across South Africa and in 8 other African countries that have Special Olympics programs, to ensure that health practitioners leave these institutions with the skills necessary to provide quality inclusive healthcare for the over 700 000 identified Special Olympics athletes in Africa and the many more people with intellectual disabilities that live here.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Between 10-20 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mashane Nthutang

Truly inspired, and indeed seeing the impact that will be created by the videos as part of the curriculum in Universities and other tertiary institutions. This will indeed ensure that Healthcare professionals/practitioners will at least be exposed and informed to provide primary health care and access to people with intellectual disabilities. The idea will spread out in the entire Region/Continent and accessibility will be possible for healthcare and while knowledge has been shared with the healthcare practitioners which also has personal gain of making an impact in the lives of the marginalized. True wealth is great health. I fully support the idea and wish to see it unfold in the mentioned countries.

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