- Need: To educate youth about obesity and healthy lifestyle choices.
- Intervention: An educational program about healthy living was implemented in Lincoln and Claiborne Parishes in Louisiana for youth ages 9-18.
- Results: Youth4Health program produced greater awareness and participation in healthier lifestyles by target youth and their families, as well as church congregations.
Promising (About evidence-level criteria)
Youth4Health, an initiative of Louisiana Tech University, combined nutrition, physical activity, gardening, and family components to address the prevalence of childhood obesity. This program was modeled after the Strong Me! Program. Louisiana has the 7th highest percentage of overweight and obese children in the nation. It has also been given a “D” grading for youth physical activity and health in 2012 by Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Poverty and lack of education have contributed this problem, as many live below the poverty level and lack a high school diploma.
Youth4Health, in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Louisiana, Greater Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Mount Harmony Baptist Church, and St. Matthew Baptist Church, sought to provide educational programming about obesity to youth and their families at local churches and the Boys & Girls Club. Church youth groups met once a week for approximately one hour, and the Boys & Girls Club met in 15-20 minute increments several times a week. Youth4Health utilized the skills of a program director and program coordinator to provide learning materials and activities that were tailored to each youth group for their setting and needs. Each month a topic was selected for discussion and weekly lessons were developed around it. Youth leaders also posted information about the lessons to congregation members and invited them to participate in activities.
Youth4Health implemented a gardening component to show the advantages of fresh foods and healthy diets. An on-site garden was built and youth and church members tended it throughout the year. Nutrition faculty and students from Louisiana Tech University provided information and demonstrations on how to create a balanced diet. Youth4Health included physical activities in programming as well, by providing participants with the opportunity to join sessions on bowling, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, and walking.
Youth4Health gave children ages 9-18 the opportunity to participate in summer camps, recruiting volunteer and practicum students from Louisiana Tech University to work, mentor, and serve as group leaders. These camps offered sessions by age and maturity and featured the topics of gardening, nutrition, physical activity, and leadership.
This program received support from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant.
- Nutrition education
- Physical activity sessions
- Community gardening
- Information connecting Biblical passages to health and wellness
- All 3 churches have agreed to continue health education and their community gardens after the grant cycle ends
- Community gardens have increased the engagement of elder members with local youth
- Youth participants showed an increase in the number of meals eaten at home and a decrease in meals eaten at fast food restaurants after attending the program
- Participants demonstrated increased knowledge and understanding of proper portion sizes and more willingness to try new/unfamiliar foods
- 80% of youth who attended the 2014 camp retained or increased the number of servings of fruits and vegetables they ate each day
- 75% of youth did not believe vegetables tasted bad after attending the 2014 camp
- 89% of youth liked the taste of most fruits after attending the 2014 camp
- This program broadened community awareness and interest in living healthier lifestyles
- Churches involved in the program established closer relationships and fellowship than before the program
Challenges faced by this program include:
- Original program director vacated the position early in the first year
- Little time to adequately prepare for first summer camp
- Broad age range of children with their varying developmental stages required careful program planning and logistics
- Originally each church held their camps at different times, making for difficult program coordination
- Lack of full participation as originally committed by 2 organizations
- Scheduling and location conflicts
- Partners had limited resources
- The Boys & Girls Club were required to apply affiliate-mandated curriculum during the program, which required more of Youth4Health's time and energy
In order to create a similar program, it is important to:
- Divide participants into age groups to better structure programming
- Locate a facility that can accommodate program lessons
- Encourage participating partners to form a cooperative scheduling agreement for the time of the camp
- Educate partners on ways to acquire future funding through grant-writing workshops
- Incorporate project to fit with partnering members’ goals and desired outcomes
Heather R. McCollum, Associate Professor of Family Consumer Sciences College of Health and Human Development
California State University-Northridge
Children and youth
Community and faith-based initiatives
Food security and nutrition
Obesity and weight control
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
September 22, 2015
September 25, 2017
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.