Commit to Inclusion in Sport

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By NCHPAD

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability is focused on building healthy, inclusive communities that provide people with disability equal access to and opportunities for healthy living.

The exciting road to Rio is coming to culmination as the 2016 Paralympic Games kick off in Rio de Janeiro on September 7, 2016.  If you are thinking we got our dates wrong, think again because the Paralympic Games take place two weeks after the Olympic Games in the same venue.  In fact, the root of the word Paralympic is “para” meaning parallel.  The Paralympic Games is a major international multi-sport event just like the Olympics, but involves athletes with a range of physical disabilities.  The U.S. Paralympic Team is ready for action with 289 athletes, representing 43 states.

 

090716_USAWheelchairRugby
2016 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team

 

These 289 athletes are representing over 50 million Americans with disabilities. Few make it to this level of competition and those that do should be celebrated as elite athletes. This elite level of the competition provides an opportunity to use the visibility of the event as a tool for public health and social change.

Adults with disabilities are more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle and 3 times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without a disability.  The obesity rate for children with a disability is 38 percent higher than children without a disability.  Focusing on health promotion and increasing physical activity during childhood can encourage lifelong habits that can decrease the risk of chronic disease in adulthood.  Early positive experiences in sport for all abilities can improve physical activity levels and remove internal barriers that may exist, such as lack of self-efficacy or not identifying as being an athlete.  Inclusive sport provides an opportunity to redefine one’s sense of self and challenge stereotypes.  The child with a disability may have always been on the sidelines as the team manager, the water boy, the score keeper, but not the athlete.  The time for change is now—sport and physical activity are a right, not a privilege.

The visibility of the Paralympic Movement has steadily grown since the first organized games held in 1948 in Stoke Mandeville, England.  The movement is promoting a greater level of awareness concerning issues that people with disabilities are confronted with on a day-to-day basis related to access and the built environment.  The Paralympics serve as a tool to educate society about the benefits and possibilities about people with disability engaging in sport and physical activity.  Being healthy and having a disability are not mutually exclusive.  Let’s use the Paralympic Games as a platform for changing perceptions and exploring the possibilities of human difference!  Commit to Inclusion to ensure sport and physical activity opportunities are available for all.

Watch the 2016 Paralympic Games:

NBC Olympics’ coverage of the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games begins Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  NBC Olympics will present more than 70 hours of coverage of the Rio Paralympic Games on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app. NBC Olympics coverage of the 2016 Games will increase by 20 hours from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, and 64 hours from the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

In addition to NBC Sports Group’s unprecedented coverage, the USOC will provide live online coverage at TeamUSA.org.  You can also catch the action from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) at www.paralympic.org/.

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