PRESTONSBURG — When it comes to imparting lessons about health to teenagers, Floyd County Health Department Director Thursa Sloan says, while there are many methods that work, she is absolutely certain of one that doesn’t: Lectures from adults.
“Who’s going to listen to us talking about diabetes?” Sloan said. “Kids are going to listen to other kids.”
And it was from that single thought that Sloan said a new tool for combating Floyd County’s poor health was borne.
The Jane Bond Teen Health League is getting its start this summer, providing local high school students with both a summer job and lessons about health that organizers hope they take back to their peers.
Named for longtime health educator Jane Bond, who died of cancer in 2011, Sloan said the teen league is intended to open a new front in the battle for better health, by enlisting youth to carry the message.
Sloan said multiple tactics are needed, if Floyd County hopes to conquer the chronic high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sedentary living and decreasing longevity that pushed Floyd County to the bottom of this year’s County Health Rankings.
“This is part of our effort to work with the board of education to work on that ‘120’ number,” Sloan said, referring to the county’s last-place showing among the state’s 120 counties.
The effort to form the league only began a few weeks ago. With summer approaching fast, Sloan said it was necessary to accept students from only Prestonsburg High School this year. Deedra Brown, who is leaving her position with the school’s Youth Services Center, worked closely with the health department to recruit this year’s class.
In future years, Sloan said the department plans to select two students from each high school and will also consider students from the county’s private schools.
To earn a spot on the league, students were asked to submit essays on smoking, nutrition and the lack of physical activity. They were then subjected to interviews which accounted for 55 percent of their scores.
League members will spend their summers working 20 hours a week. Part of that time will be classwork, where they will learn about health careers and healthy lifestyle habits. The remainder of the time, they will perform clerical work, teach nutrition classes, give smoking cessation and physical education presentations, and do community outreach by giving lessons in local day care centers.
In addition to the health department, the program is sponsored by Highlands Regional Medical Center, Physicians After Hours and St. Joseph - Martin Hospital.