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Teen mentors inspire healthier choices in younger children
Date:3/20/2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio An obesity intervention taught by teen mentors in Appalachian elementary schools resulted in weight loss, lower blood pressure and healthy lifestyle changes among the younger students learning the curriculum, according to a new study.

In contrast, children taught the same lessons by adults in a traditional classroom saw no changes in their health outcomes.

The results of the eight-week clinical trial conducted by Ohio State University researchers suggest that school systems could consider using teen mentors to instruct younger children in select health-related programs.

In the study, all instructors taught lessons from a program called "Just for Kids!" that was developed by the University of California, San Francisco. For one hour after school each week, teen mentors met one-on-one with students in a large gym setting while another group of students was taught in a classroom by school system employees, such as librarians or administrative staff.

When the program ended, only the teen-mentored group showed a greater increase in physical activity and marginal decreases in body mass index and diastolic blood pressure. Kids led by teens also showed slight increases in nutrition knowledge and plans to change their behavior. Children taught by adults showed no improved health outcomes.

Though the study was conducted in Appalachian Ohio, where research suggests people prefer an informal way of receiving information, teen mentors have the potential to help influence health behaviors of younger children in any school district, researchers say.

"Not only would this help schools deliver a curriculum, but this study supports the idea that this mentoring approach is a better way to impact younger kids, and it creates an infrastructure to improve health without it having to come from a classroom," said Laureen Smith, associate professor of nursing at Ohio State and lead author of the study. "I focused on di
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Contact: Laureen Smith
Smith.5764@osu.edu
614-292-4578
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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