Boston Project Ministries – Healthy Youth Champions

The Healthy Youth Champions is a unique program in our area of Dorchester. The following are four ways that the students will grow and contribute to our community.

1. Youth will learn and contribute to improving physical health and food access in our community.
Lasting change needs to begin with oneself, and to create community-level changes means that we need to educate and influence young people who will help lead in these important spaces. Creating an employment opportunity where teenagers can be exposed to the intersection of physical health and food access work helps to cast vision and birth new leaders. Youth making a positive, short-term contribution to long-term neighborhood efforts is ideal for a summer job.

2. Teenagers? Health Will Improve.
The Healthy Youth Champions (HYC) will gain life-changing information about what it means to practice healthy lifestyle habits. In addition to nutrition and healthy cooking skills, each young person will commit to making one health change in their life during the 6-week employment period.

3. Neighbors Become Connected to Needed Resources.
We are a living example of the idiom, ?you can lead a horse to water, but you can?t make him drink.? This grant will help increase awareness amongst residents of all ages to take advantage of the health and food resources in the community that can make a difference in their lives. The youth will assess and create new strategies for connecting neighbors to health resources.

4. We Can Gather Neighborhood Level Data to Inform Effective Public Health Strategies.
Most of the current survey data we have are for an area known as Dorchester within Boston. Unfortunately, this area is large and not representative of the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle?s racial or economic demographic. The HYCs will gather additional data from neighbors in this smaller geography about health and food access to inform current and future health prevention and intervention activities.

Our community is at a crossroads facing critical health decisions. In the past 10 years, there have been significant improvements to our built environment, which include key supports for a healthy lifestyle (farmers’ markets, community gardens, fitness centers, etc.). Yet, at the same time, we struggle with rising obesity rates in both children and adults, and growth in obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. There is a missing connection between the existing community health resources and people accessing those resources to improve their own healthy lifestyle habits (Codman Square Health Assessment 2016).

The Healthy Youth Champions will pilot strategies that harness the power of strong neighbor-to-neighbor relationships. We believe teenagers can be a catalyst and sustaining force in changing a communities? health culture and norms. This team will have a special focus on the physical health of teenagers during the vulnerable out-of-school summertime when school-based supports are not as readily available. Ideally, positive change for physical health amongst our youth will also reach their families as well.