Saturday, August 26, 2000

Program targets unhealthy teens

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — After a national survey showed that Kentucky teen-agers are among the nation's leaders in tobacco use, inactivity and poor nutrition, state educators and health officials decided to do something about it.

        Next month, Healthy Hearts=Healthy Futures — a state cardiovascular school program — will hold community forums to find out how to reduce Kentucky youths' risk factors for heart disease.

        Northern Kentucky's forum will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Boone County Public Library, 7425 U.S. 42.

        The forum is in response to a 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey showed that Kentucky teens are leading the nation in many of the behaviors often associated with heart disease.

        “Physical inactivity, high-fat/low-fiber diets and tobacco use are some of the high-risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” said Ms. Mary Singler, health promotion manager for the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department. “Unfortunately, our kids have developed these bad habits. We're hoping to get some insight from community members, or the kids themselves, on how we can change that.”

        The CDC survey monitored risk behaviors of more than 15,000 high-school-aged youths, and found that Kentucky teen-agers were less active than their peers in other states, said Jennifer Embry, the regional coordinator of Healthy Hearts=Healthy Futures.

        Thirty-three percent of youths said they smoked before age 13, and 47 percent surveyed in 1997 identified themselves as “current smokers.”

        Those statistics are significant, organizers of the community forum said, because national research indicates that 80 percent of adult smokers started before age 18.


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