BackgroundProviding public education on the role of diet, lifestyle, and micronutrients in promoting optimum health and preventing or treating disease has been a major commitment of the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) since its inception at Oregon State University in 1996. As part of LPI’s public outreach, the Healthy Youth Program aims to educate youth and families through evidence-based and hands-on activities. Our vision is for a community of healthy, happy and active children and families.
The Healthy Youth Program was developed in 2009 in response to the declining emphasis on nutrition and physical education in our schools and the alarming increase of childhood overweight and obesity in the United States. According to data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 32 percent of 2 to 19 year-old children are overweight or obese (23 million children) and 17 percent are obese (12 million children).
Most experts agree that overconsumption of calories and physical inactivity are the main contributing factors to the obesity problem. There is a widespread need to promote better eating habits among America’s children. There is no quick fix to address this problem, but “if we don’t reverse the epidemic, the current generation of young people could be the first in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation” (F as in Fat: 2012 Report, Trust for America’s Health[PDF]). Research shows that a strategy of primary prevention can help improve children’s health and reduce health care costs, and is a realistic and achievable goal “if there is a sufficient investment in effective programs and policies” (F as in Fat: 2012 Report, Trust for America’s Health[PDF]).
Hidden HungerHealthy dietary choices and lifestyle habits help youth and families maintain a healthy body weight, reduce their risk of developing a chronic disease later in life, and attain optimum health. However, we cannot achieve optimum health if we are not providing the right nutrients in the right amounts to our body. Many families consume large quantities of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods high in macronutrients like fat, proteins, and carbohydrates, but lacking many of the vitamins and nutritionally-essential minerals (micronutrients) needed on a daily basis. They may satisfy their overt hunger by eating macronutrients, but don’t satisfy their body’s need for vitamins and minerals to function at its best. Failing to provide the body with the much-needed vitamins and minerals may lead to micronutrient inadequacies or hidden hunger. The symptoms of hidden hunger are often not obvious, but they prevent our bodies from functioning at an optimum level. Micronutrient inadequacies may cause inefficient energy metabolism or poor immune function, resulting in lack of energy or fatigue and increased susceptibility to a cold or the flu. Therefore, teaching youth and their families about the importance of eating foods rich in micronutrients is a major focus of all our nutrition education programs.
Healthy Youth Program’s Core Values:
- Treat all people with dignity and respect
- Be committed to excellence in all programs and initiatives undertaken
- Provide access to our programs for all youth and families
- Healthy lifestyle is linked to a healthy and sustainable environment
- Use garden spaces for hands-on nutrition education
- Involve communities and respond to community needs in all programming
- Promote playful and kid-friendly exercise
- Promote personal responsibility as a key factor for success
What Makes The Healthy Youth Program Unique:
- Our educational materials are built upon the LPI’s latest scientific research on vitamins, minerals and other compounds found in the diet to help people live a full and productive life, free of disease.
- Providing high-quality programming with low youth-to-adult ratios is an integral part of all our programs.
- We strive to make our programs financially feasible to all youth by offering full and partial scholarships.
- We strive to accommodate the needs of every child.
- As part of the OSU community, we have access to campus resources and collaborative efforts.
- We provide education and career-related opportunities for OSU students through our internship and volunteer positions.
- We strive to make our programs easily accessible by offering them in convenient locations in the community.
- We have an open-door policy and invite parents to visit or participate in all our programs.