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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Ohio 4-H Healthy Living Advocates

(left to right) Piper Brill, Madelyn Smith, and Ivy Smith, all from Franklin County, lead an activity they developed to raise awareness about mental health stigma and ways mental health can be addressed at the individual, group, organizational, and policy levels.

The fifth year of Ohio 4-H Healthy Living Advocate program is off to a great start. The program, also known as Health Heroes, engages teens in learning about and taking action on health issues.

This fall, ten new members completed a one-day training and joined with returning members to begin exploring how they make a difference in their communities. Teen mental health, vaping, and healthy eating were topics the group covered at their October meeting. Teens compiled teaching kits and practiced teaching about ways to reduce sodium intake. This teach-back approach works, said Dr. Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, who advises the Health Heroes group, because the teens are learning by doing; they gain confidence as they lead the activities and receive feedback. Matthew Swearingen (Adams), Cara Brown (Seneca),  and Virginia Porter (Delaware County) leading activities from the new Sodium Shakedown  Kit during their October 19 meeting.

“I became a Health Hero to learn more and advocate for health," said new member Virginia Porter from Delaware County. “I’m so excited for new experiences to come.” In the coming year, some of those new experiences will involve teaching others at the Ohio 4-H Conference and the National 4-H Summit on Healthy Living in Washington, DC. According to returning member Hannah May Borton from Fulton County, these trip experiences are valuable because “you get to build a lot of teamwork and friendships with the people you stay with and while you work together on projects.”  Piper Brill (left) and Alexia Pennington, both from Franklin County, examine beverage containers as they prepare to practice teaching others during the Health Heroes training in September.

Ferrari said learning how to approach issues is just as important as learning about the issues themselves. “The first step is to start with the facts, then get others involved in making and carrying out a plan,” she said.  While doing this, the teens are developing their leadership skills and are learning about careers in the health field. The 4-H members are leaders in bringing the fourth H – health – to the forefront. 

Interested in supporting the Ohio 4-H Health Heroes?  Click to donate.