Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Healthy fun, healthy youths

Young people will practice good health. If it’s fun, that is.

At a Wednesday morning session on "Application of Innovative Approaches to Health Communication," researchers found that dancing and speed dating were effectively used to improve nutrition and breast cancer awareness.

For example, the Best Bones Forever! initiative employed a dance video contest to address the unfortunate statistic that just 15 percent of girls ages 9-13 get the recommended amounts of calcium. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the initiative pushed the contest out through Facebook and promoted messages about calcium and vitamin D to “get girls engaging in physical activity and strengthening their bones,” said session presenter Elizabeth Osborn, who helped develop the video.

As a result, 90 girls from 17 states participated in the contest. In a follow-up survey given to the participants:

•    93 percent reported learning about which physical activities help build strong bones and 90 percent reported learning about which foods and drinks help build strong bones;

•    97 percent agreed or strongly agreed to eat more bone-strengthening foods; and

•    100 percent agreed that they would participate in another dance contest.

Over at the BOLD Initiative, organizers used a five-day summer camp for high schoolers to improve students' science skills, increase student awareness of cancer and introduce students to careers in health. The camp used breast cancer as the baseline topic and hosted a "speed-dating" event in which students discussed with each other their interests in the health professions.

Lead researcher and session presenter Laura Liang said that students overwhelmingly agreed with the following statement: “This program provided me with insight that will help me make future college plans and/or career goals.”

— D.G.

Above, the Best Bones Forever! Let's Dance Contest video.

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