May 20, 2011

Latest Research Shows 4-H Members Are Making Healthy Choices

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

You may have read before that studies show 4-H youth have higher educational achievement, are more likely to plan for college, volunteer, and make more contributions to their communities than other youth. It should be no surprise that the structured learning, the encouragement of the club setting, and the adult mentoring that is the core of the 4-H program plays such a vital role in helping 4-H members achieve success. Dr. Richard Lerner, a youth development scholar at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University and his team have been working for nearly ten years to conduct The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. The results are published periodically. This study has also shown that girls in 4-H were more apt to participate in science, computer technology, and engineering than their non-4-H peers.

The latest findings, referred to as Wave 6, show that 4-H youth are engaging in more positive healthy living behaviors than youth that do not participate in 4-H. According to the study, 4-H’ers, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, race, and gender, thrive through the health/safety education and experiences they receive through 4-H programming.

Dr. Lerner’s study has found that, when compared to other youth, young people involved in 4-H are:
• More likely to spend more time exercising or being physically active;
• Two times less likely to engage in drug use;
• Two times less likely to use cigarettes or drink alcohol.
According to Dr. Lerner, “The results of this longitudinal study continually reinforce the idea that when youth participate in programs such as 4-H, they thrive in numerous ways including health, positive development, and community contribution. The comparisons we’ve made between 4-H youth and other young people highlight the considerable strengths and health of the young men and young women participating in 4-H around the country.”

With these outcomes in hand, 4-H nation-wide is moving forward by joining with the White House’ Let’s Move campaign. Here is a quote from Donald Floyd, Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council: “With nearly 2.7 million youth enrolled in 4-H healthy living programs in 2009, the findings from the Tufts study underline 4-H’s unique ability to make a significant impact on the health and wellness of many of our nation’s future leaders. Working in conjunction with the White House’s Let’s Move! campaign and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge, 4-H’s extensive healthy living programs equip youth with the knowledge and skills that will prepare them physically, emotionally and socially to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
The commitment by National 4-H is to have 100,000 4-H members complete the challenge by September 2011. The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award recognizes those who log their recommended physical activity for six consecutive weeks, five days a week (60 minutes for kids, 30 minutes for adults). Let’s Move! is lead by First Lady Michelle Obama. Together, these programs are working together with 4-H and other community organizations to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States.

All Pinellas County 4-H members are encouraged to make the right choice and take the President’s Challenge. 4-H leaders and volunteers are also invited to join. Clubs must register at the website, create an account, and then get moving. The research results are in. Let’s make the most of the fourth “H” - Health!

For more information on:

Presidential Active Lifestyle Award

Let’s Move!

4-H Healthy Living

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