Youth & Family Services, Inc. Boys' Health Advocacy Program
By Burke Eilers, MS, BS
Director, Youth & Family Services Counseling Center/Youth Trauma Center/Boys' Health Advocacy Program
Sharon Oney, BA, MEd
Youth & Family Services Grants Administrator
Who would have thought that mentoring could be so critical to a boy's health? When the Boys' Health Advocacy Program began in South Dakota 10 years ago, the advocates accepted referrals of boys, ages four to 17, with unmet health care needs and ensured that they received medical, optical, and dental care. In time, they came to realize that their clients' overall health and well-being was much more complex.
The boys often experienced poverty, hunger, homelessness, abuse or neglect, chaotic or transient lifestyles, substance abuse in the home, emotional or behavioral problems, and/or a host of other issues. The advocates recognized the need to identify and address as many of these factors as possible in order for healthy change to occur.
The Boys' Health Advocacy Program now works to promote physical and mental health, prevent or reduce risky behavior, provide a trusted adult mentor, increase access to community resources, and provide academic support. Many at-risk youth think they have little or no opportunity for success. This approach offers opportunities to build on their strengths, increase life skills, and participate in enriching experiences that help the boys set goals and direction for their lives.
The program offers several components for at-risk boys:
- Prevention Education including life skills, healthy relationships and preventing risky behaviors
- Health Promotion focusing on nutrition and fitness and linking the boys to health care
- Mental Health assessments and trauma-focused treatment
- Family/School Involvement that promotes academic success and parenting skills
- Transportation, which is necessary for most at risk boys to be able to participate
- Mentoring that provides the support of a trusted adult who reinforces positive behaviors
Of all the components, mentoring is proving to be the key that makes the program effective with at-risk boys. As one participant stated, the Boys' Health Advocacy Program "gives us a fatherhood mentor who spends time with us, gives us things, and teaches us things…Without this program there wouldn't be anything or anybody to help us with our lives…That's why this program is important."
Learn more about this program on AMCHP Innovation Station!
Supporting Couples at the Transition to Parenthood: Family Foundations
By Mark E. Feinberg
Research Professor, Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University
The Department of Defense concern with a service member's readiness for duty has transformed over the past decade with the recognition that "family readiness" is a key factor determining an individual's operational capacity. The growing awareness of family readiness has prompted a move to develop and disseminate programs for military families that support positive family functioning, such as Family Foundations.
Family Foundations is implemented as a brief series of classes before and after birth, preparing couples for the increase in responsibilities and strains of early parenthood. How couples weather and emerge from the transition to parenthood influences the future course of family relationships and parent and child adjustment. The key goal of Family Foundations is to promote healthy and cooperative co-parenting relations as fundamental bedrock of positive couple romantic and parent-child relations.
Family Foundations has demonstrated positive program impacts on a broad array of parent, child, and family relationship domains from birth to seven years old (Feinberg et al., 2010, Feinberg and Kan, 2008, Feinberg et al., 2009). Data from randomized trials indicated that pregnant mothers assigned to Family Foundations with medium-high levels of cortisol, financial stress, etc. demonstrated lower levels of preterm birth and experienced shorter hospital durations after birth. Data analyses also illustrated that Family Foundations enhanced co-parental support while reducing co-parental undermining, parental stress and maternal depression.
Children in families exposed to Family Foundations showed better adjustment than control children:
- Age 1, Family Foundations children demonstrated greater capacity for self-soothing than control children
- Age 3, Family Foundations children showed greater social competence, and boys showed fewer emotional and behavior problems relative to control children
- Age 7, teachers reported that Family Foundations children demonstrated better academic adjustment, fewer mood and anxiety problems and fewer disruptive behavior problems than control children
Family Foundations successfully piloted a version of the program for low-income teens becoming parents and is currently testing a version for high-risk parents. Other program versions are being developed for online, interactive delivery and for parents with a young child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Although a few local community organizations have adopted Family Foundations, the Defense Department represents the first large-scale dissemination. Program developers are currently consulting with policymakers to consider how federal block grants may support civilian dissemination through state maternal and child health systems.
Learn more about this program on AMCHP Innovation Station and by visiting their website www.FamFound.net.
Georgia Shape Targets Childhood Obesity
By Emily Anne Vall, PhD
Obesity Project Manager (Georgia Shape), Office of the Chief of Staff, Georgia Department of Public Health
Georgia Shape is a statewide, multiagency initiative of Gov. Nathan Deal that brings together governmental, philanthropic, academic and business communities to address childhood obesity in Georgia.
In 2009, Georgia mandated statewide fitness assessments through public school physical education classes and currently assesses more than one million students annually. Georgia Shape is diligently working toward improving student body mass index (BMI) and aerobic capacity (AC) measures through various statewide physical activity and nutrition interventions.
Georgia Shape programs, such as Power Up for 30 (PU30), help empower school leaders and faculty members to engage students in physical activity every day while utilizing their existing resources. PU30 is a free one-day training program that helps teams of educators integrate an additional 30 minutes of physical activity before, during or after school, as well as improve physical activity levels in physical education classes and recess. PU30 is unique in that it analyzes each school environment prior to training so educators can build custom physical activity action plans that align with their school's capabilities.
Pilot data suggest that PU30 can not only improve student BMI and AC measures, but also increase minutes of physical activity in the classroom and during recess. The goal of PU30 is to inspire every school in the state to pledge and implement the program. As of July 2015, more than 350,000 students have been touched through the program.
In partnership with the Georgia Department of Education and HealthMPowers, our technical assistance provider to schools, Georgia Shape has engaged more than 600 schools across the state through PU30. The resounding success of PU30 inspired a new iteration of the program that will be developed with Georgia Shape partners for middle schools and early child care environments.
Learn more about this program on AMCHP Innovation Station and their website www.GeorgiaShape.org. You can also connect with Georgia Shape online by following the organization on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.