By Amanda Weisbrod
The age old adage of eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away may have some truth to it after all.
Preventive health care and services like screening tests, immunizations and health behavior counseling are “key to improving America’s health and keeping rising health costs under control,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the CDC website reports Americans are using preventive services at only about half the recommended rate largely because of financial barriers and sometimes due to lack of awareness.
Preventing at-risk behaviors for youth as well as adults, according to Carrie Brogoitti, public health administrator at the Center for Human Development in La Grande, is the first step in living a healthy life.
“With public health, our big thing is to create an environment in the community to allow people to make healthy choices,” Brogoitti said. “A big part of that is to influence the trajectory of a child or adolescent, stopping the initiation of whatever it is we’re trying to prevent.”
That’s why CHD started an art contest to bring awareness to the health risks associated with underage drinking three weeks ago.
Jasmine Joy Smith, strategic prevention framework coordinator at CHD, is heading the contest and hopes to connect with youth and their parents by taking a health-based approach.
“We want to focus on brain and body development (with underage drinking) because studies show a health-effects focus has more of an impact on kids and their parents,” Smith said.
Teens ages 14-18 can upload their photograph or artwork based on the consequences of underage drinking to CHD’s website at chdinc.org until June 15. The submission with the most likes on CHD’s website will be the winner of the contest. First place will earn a Microsoft Surface Pro 6 laptop, while second and third places will each receive a $100 Amazon gift card.
Brogoitti said she hopes youth will be inspired to share what they’ve learned about underage drinking through their art with the adults in their lives.
“This contest allows youth to think about how alcohol impacts them now and potentially in the future,” she said. “Youth are gathering and sharing information to educate adults with the goal of creating an environment to support youth not drinking.”
Along with its underage drinking awareness contest, CHD is working to educate the public on gambling addiction during March, which is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. CHD treats clients who have gambling addictions with one-on-one counseling services year round.
DeAnne Mansveld, prevention programs coordinator at CHD, said gambling is less likely to be seen as an addiction than alcohol or tobacco use, but because it activates the same areas of the brain as other addictive substances, gambling should be considered an addictive activity.
“We’re trying to increase awareness that gambling can be a problem for some people,” she said. “Awareness is important because many people don’t realize gambling can even be an addiction.”
Brogoitti and Mansveld agree the best example of a successful preventive health care effort is against tobacco use. While it is still widely used, tobacco is much less socially acceptable than it used to be, according to Mansveld’s own experience of witnessing students smoking cigarettes with their teachers while she was in high school.
“There was rampant smoking everywhere, but now we’re at the point where smoking is not as culturally acceptable as it once was,” she said. “This has been a huge success of public and population health.”
Brogoitti agrees, but adds she believes the best way to approach preventative care is to start at home with the family unit.
“(Tobacco use prevention) is a good example of how public health controls can work to protect a whole community,” she said. “The idea (with prevention) is to stop problems before they happen. The greatest success is starting with families where kids are born into environments with less likelihood of ill health happening.”
See complete story in Monday's Observer