Campaign for healthy youth behavior cites exercise, nutrition, vaccination, managing stress, monitoring chronic conditions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Education have launched a public-service campaign to encourage Kentucky’s children and their families to use the summer months to build healthy habits for the next school year and beyond.

“We want to encourage Kentucky students to create and engage in healthy behaviors because research shows that healthy students are better learners. They often get better grades, they attend school more and stay focused longer in the classroom,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation said at a news conference to launch the campaign.

The effort is part of a multi-faceted education and awareness “High Five for Health” campaign that includes animated videos, social media graphics, message points and materials to be distributed at sporting events, youth organizations and various other locations. All campaign materials are available for free download at
Chandler said the campaign is designed to help parents find no-cost or low-cost activities that the whole family can do together, and activities that older children may do independently.
The campaign focuses on five key areas to promote health, including prioritizing physical activity; practicing healthy eating; monitoring chronic conditions such as asthma, obesity and diabetes; staying up to date on vaccinations; and managing stress and emotions.
The campaign website offers tips on each of these focus areas, including ways to prioritize physical activity and how to know if children are meeting the level of aerobic activity needed to make a difference. It also offers some healthy recipes and recommendations for how many fruits and vegetables a child should eat each day. In addition, it offers suggestions for how to help your child learn how to manage stress.
When it comes to physical activity, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents get one-hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.
Many of Kentucky’s youth are sedentary. The latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey taken in 2019 found that 19 percent of Kentucky’s high school students said they did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on at least one day in the week before they took the survey and 81% of them said they were not physically active at least 60 minutes per day on all seven days.
Jim Tackett, the education department’s healthy-school project director, encouraged Kentucky parents and youth to have fun as they incorporate some of these new healthy behaviors into their lives, but to also be intentional about it. He also encouraged parents and youth to be open to trying new things and to celebrate small successes.
“Good health just doesn’t happen by itself,” Tackett said, adding later, “Each of our behaviors takes a little time to mold or to break. So over the summer months, we’re hoping that the High Five for Health campaign will help us establish some new behaviors that we can carry with us down the road.”
Asked about the relationship between high screen time and low physical activity, Tackett recognized that this is an issue, but said this particular campaign largely addresses components suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which funded a large portion of it.
He said reducing screen time would not only lead to increased physical activity, but also impact the mental health piece of this campaign.
“We would definitely support trying to take a break from those electronic devices,” he said. “While they are necessary in the learning process today, we would like to strike that balance if at all possible. . . . I think there is a happy medium that we need to continually talk about.”
A recent University of Southern Denmark study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that children in the group that had their smartphones and tablets removed for two weeks and reduced their recreational screen media use to less than three hours per week had an average of 45 minutes more daily physical activity compared to children in the control group, which did not change their usual screen habits.

“The difference between the groups were largest on weekend days where children in the screen reduction group had an average of 73 min more physical activity compared to children in the control group,” lead author Jesper Pedersen said in the news release. 

In addition to making sure your child is up to date with their recommended schedule of vaccines, the campaign also encourages parents get their children who are five an older vaccinated against the coronavirus. To support this effort, the sponsors are offering a Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Lexington.
In partnership with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and other health organizations, Chandler said the foundation and the education department will host Covid-19 vaccine clinics for youth five and older on June 3-4 and June 10-11 in Lexington, weekends when the Kentucky High School Athletics Association hosts the state boys and girls track, baseball and softball tournaments. They vaccines will be available in the green lot at Kroger Field. 
About 80% of the campaign is funded by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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