As a teen in 60's America, I was transfixed with the Apollo Mission Countdown. It was a major news event for all Americans to watch the rockets blast into space and on to the Moon. The NASA announcer gave the countdown: "Three, two, one, IGNITION" and a powerful and thundering lift off was irreversibly on its way. On September 12, 1962, from Houston Texas, President Kennedy had challenged all Americans: "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win."
This month, his nephew Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, has challenged us to "Ignite Change" in Seattle Washington and transform health care. Special Olympics and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) are partnered for a unique three-day effort to reverse decades of health disparities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). This challenge cannot be met with only good intentions and more funding. Transformed systems of care based on preventive integrated models reduce mortality, improve quality of life and expend resources wisely.
Most Americans are unaware of the depth of this crisis.
The AADMD has enlisted the support of the American Medical Association, American Dental Association, American Public Health Association and the American College of Physicians among others to adopt resolutions declaring people with I/DD to be "medically underserved." Since the 2008 General Accountability Office's Report: "CMS Should Encourage States to Conduct Mortality Reviews for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities", it has been recognized that extreme health disparities result in unnecessary deaths. United States' Surgeon Generals have lamented the health disparity far too long. We need action, not more reports, data, evidence and editorials.
Come to Seattle and be inspired. Come to Seattle and network with like-minded national and international leaders. Come to Seattle and help build systems of care that are responsive to persons with I/DD. Come to Seattle and learn how to transform the health network in your community.
I challenge you to not only attend this conference, but remain engaged with the AADMD and Special Olympics to create a collaborative, integrated and accessible system of health providers that are highly trained throughout the world.
You will leave Seattle a different person—a difference making leader.
Dr. David Fray