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5 chapters use grants to promote student health, safety :

March 11, 2020

U.S. youths’ academic success is strongly linked with their health and is one way to predict health outcomes in adulthood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five AAP chapters received Healthy People 2020 grants to develop programs to address health and safety in schools. Following is an overview of each chapter’s program.

Snuffing out vaping

Data from the 2018 California Healthy Kids Survey showed 28% of high school students vaped in the last 30 days, and 80% started with a flavored product. California Chapter 2 is working to mitigate the negative impact of youth vaping in Los Angeles County, which has 88 cities and 93 school districts.

The chapter’s program includes four goals: 1) raising awareness among parents about teen vaping; 2) working with schools to make vaping on campuses socially undesirable; 3) training pediatricians to identify patients who vape and treat vaping addiction with nicotine replacement therapy and counseling; and 4) testifying at local hearings on proposed ordinances to ban flavored tobacco products.

Chapter members have provided expert testimony that influenced multiple jurisdictions to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, impacting an estimated 45,000 high school students.

“Our Healthy People 2020 grant really allowed us to galvanize our chapter to work on this important issue of preventing youth vaping. Thanks to the AAP, we’re able to make a real difference in our communities,” Chapter President Alice A. Kuo, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, said.

Taking on cyberbullying

The Kentucky Chapter is facilitating partnerships between pediatricians and schools to address social rejection and cyberbullying.

The chapter has created a training module for pediatricians to become certified “ambassatricians” and host roundtable discussions with communities/schools and teens on school safety. The module has four parts, which include an overview of teen digital life, cyberbullying factors, adolescent brain development and strategies to facilitate roundtable discussions. Teens will be asked to participate on panels, which will validate their experiences and give them a voice in building safer schools.

The chapter anticipates the project will impact approximately 6,000 high school students, teachers and school administrators in urban and rural areas.

Protecting vulnerable youths

The Maine Chapter is providing education and support to prevent vulnerable youths, primarily those identifying as sexual minorities, from using illicit substances, including anabolic steroids, stimulants, and other appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs.

The chapter has identified schools that have agreed to host assemblies and educational sessions. The goal is to create self-sustaining programs that involve multiple stakeholders who are familiar with the unique medical, mental and emotional needs of LGBTQ youths and their vulnerability to substance use. The programs will serve as the foundation for educating peer advisers who are members of gay-straight alliances in schools across the state. These alliances have been effective at reducing suicide and risk-taking behavior by LGBTQ high school students.

The chapter also is collaborating with multiple stakeholders to develop two webinars, web-based educational materials and a resource library for pediatricians and families on substance use and other challenges faced by LGBTQ students.

Improving literacy promotion in tribal clinics

The Minnesota Chapter is partnering with Reach Out and Read (ROR) Minnesota to focus on Native American children and improve kindergarten readiness. Guided by a community advisory board, a study team will conduct focus groups and surveys to understand tribal clinics’ health and literacy priorities, preferences around books and languages, and other data that can be used to improve ROR delivery. One of the 14 tribal clinics that participates in the ROR Program is also participating in the study. The chapter aims to apply what it learns to improve ROR program quality in additional clinics serving indigenous populations.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to work with community experts to adapt Reach Out and Read to better meet community needs,” said Sarah J. Atunah-Jay, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, project leader.

Addressing food insecurity

The Pennsylvania Chapter developed a webinar for pediatricians on how to screen for food insecurity and provided resources to assist patients and families who screen positive. The chapter recently hosted a webinar that drew 110 participants.

The chapter also assisted an entrepreneurial fellow in the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, in developing a nutrition education app for children called Little Moochi. When Little Moochi makes healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices, the character looks and feels better.

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