By John Henry Ledwith | April 19, 2017
Senior Sales Manager, ETR
I just got back from the hospital. I’m fine, but one of my long-time friends is not. He’s recovering from a heart attack. This was one of the ones that put a real scare into me.
When a friend has an experience like this, you can’t help think about certain things. Life. Death. Family. The value of good health.
Since I’m sort of obsessed with the whole issue of health education anyway, I also end up thinking about the things we all learned about health growing up, and the health education we’re now offering our youth.
My friend—the one recovering from the heart attack—is a great guy. He’s a wonderful dad, a smart man and a heck of a lot of fun. He also has diabetes. His daily diet has not been what it should. He hasn’t been exercising regularly. I look at his recent close call and wonder, “What would it have taken—what did he need—to be able to establish better health habits when he was still a young man? And how do any of us hold onto those good habits once we’ve got them?”
The amazing field of food science knows a lot about what it takes to get people to choose less nutritious foods (see this article on the science of junk food, or this fun graphic, if you’d like to know more). Our much more modest field of health education struggles to offer nutrition lessons that stick. But we also know a thing or two about supporting behavior change.
I know it’s a challenge. Today, in my reflective state of mind, I want to say to you, my colleague in health education, “What you’re doing matters! The impact of an effective PE instructor and professional health educator can be lifelong! This goes way beyond today’s class and the students in front of you at this moment.”
The health outcomes you’re supporting in your students are going to be relevant for the rest of their lives. Our questions aren’t only, “How do we get these students into the pool for third period PE?” or “For today’s snack, can we help students choose carrots instead of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?” We need to be asking, “How do we keep that swimmer in the pool at age 45?” and “How do we build an ongoing habit for better nutritional choices?” Our impact—and our responsibility—doesn’t end when we blow the whistle.
The field of health education has gone through a profound transition over the past couple of decades. The professionalism of the field has been supported and elevated by the presence of organizations such as the American School Health Association (ASHA), SHAPE America and The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
Schools and communities today are more likely to recognize that the influence of certified school health professionals goes well beyond an interesting lesson or a productive workout. When we bring these organizations together with a strong, well-chosen School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), a science-based curriculum and dedicated teachers, we can have impacts on students’ lives for decades to come.
I hope we’re all ready to let the power of what we do inspire us. We are saving lives through our good work. I look forward to being part of your team in any way I can. Let’s keep moving ahead!
John Henry Ledwith is ETR’s Senior Sales Manager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is sustaining his habit of daily fitness walks, with 102,640 steps logged in the last seven days. How are you doing?