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Teen Health Week started in Pennsylvania and has gone global | TribLIVE.com
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Teen Health Week started in Pennsylvania and has gone global

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Lime green is the color for Global Teen Health Week.
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Dr. Laura Offutt

Happy Global Teen Health Week.

This is the week that focuses on unique health issues that face all teens worldwide. It also encourages teens to become involved in their own health care decisions.

The event was started two years ago by Dr. Laura Offutt, an internist and member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, who is based in Wayne, near Philadelphia. Offutt, who runs the website realtalkwithdroffut.com, is also the mother of two teenagers.

“The idea of Teen Health Week occurred to me in the summer of 2015, when I was working with a number of youth advisors who were helping me improve Real Talk with Dr. Offutt, which is my digital teen resource,” Offutt says in an email.

“I realized that although there are specific observances for certain teen-health related issues, … so much health communication to this age group is fear mongering and preachy, and thus, often not effective,” she says

Each day of the initiative, which gets underway March 18, has a different theme. For example, Sunday’s issue is prevention of violence and Monday’s theme is preventive care and vaccines. Teens are given handouts and suggested activities for each day.

Tuesday’s topic is healthy diet and exercise. Teens are being given materials that show them how to have a healthy diet, while participating organizations — such as schools — are given ideas like encouraging students to bring a fruit or vegetable with their lunch, or sponsor activities like a dance-a-thon.

The themes for Wednesday and Thursday are mental health and sexual development and health. On Friday, the theme is substance use and abuse and the week wraps up with oral health. The topics for the week were chosen by teens.

Participants this year include many middle and high school students in Pennsylvania, mostly in the eastern half of the state, and 26 other states, as well as their counterparts in Switzerland, Uganda, Australia, Mongolia, and Argentina.

“The growth of Teen Health Week from a Philadelphia observance to an international one was actually a deliberate effort,” Offutt says.

“In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million adolescents died — over 3,000 every day — mostly from preventable or treatable causes,” she says. “Behaviors of young people are influenced both positively and negatively by friends, family, schools, community and society. This week provides an opportunity across our global communities to emphasize young people’s health education and engagement in a positive way.

“Teens are the agents of change and Teen Health Week specifically involves them in health discussions that can positively affect their well being. In addition to learning the very important skills of health self advocacy, teens too can positively influence health behaviors in other teens, their own families and communities.”

Here’s an example of one of the videos in the Teen Health Week toolkits.

For more information on Global Teen Week go to realtalkwithdroffutt.com.

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-871-2346, [email protected] or Twitter @41Suzanne.

Teen Health Week toolkits

The toolkits created for Teen Health Week are all available from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia at collegeofphysicians.org . The resources are for doctors, schools and teens.

Healthy Diet

The toolkit for today’s Healthy Diet topic includes these suggestions for power-packed grab ‘n go breakfasts for kids who are in a hurry and don’t really like cereal and milk:

• Peanut or almond butter and bananas on raisin toast

• Quesadilla snack wrap with scrambled egg and grated low fat cheese. Add salsa for a flavor boost.

• Frozen french toast or waffle and juice-box style vanilla or chocolate flavored milk.

• Trail mix made with Cheerios® or Rice Chex®, almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries or raisins and bagged to go.

• Tortilla spread with peanut butter and jelly

• Smoothies made with 1 cup low fat milk (can subsitute almond or soy milk), ½ cup rolled oats, 1 banana, 1 cup strawberries, 1 teaspoon sugar or honey and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. For flavor and color change, try spinach and kiwi

• Cheese cuts or string cheese, fruit, and whole wheat crackers

• Bagel with light cream cheese or peanut butter with drinkable yogurt

• Peel banana. Spread with peanut butter and roll in breakfast cereal. Freeze in zip loc bag.

• Cream or tomato soup in a travel mug

• To make scrambled eggs, simply add 2 eggs, 2 tbsp milk and salt/pepper to taste to a microwavable mug. Stir briskly until well mixed. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Return to microwave and cook on high for 30-45 seconds until set.

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