Stress. Obesity. Too little sleep.
These are the main health concerns of teens today, according to a national study that three 4-H club members from Rockville helped conduct.
The Rockville teens, all members of the Lucky Clovers 4-H Club, which meets in Aspen Hill, helped gather information from Maryland teens for the report: “Teens Take on Health: Solutions for a Healthy America.” It was sponsored by the National 4-H Council of Chevy Chase and Molina Healthcare to get teens’ own take on their health issues.
It turns out Maryland teens, like those in other states, are concerned about how little sleep they get, stress, obesity and proper diet, said Rina Huang, 19, who’s a freshman at the University of Maryland.
Huang organized four community meetings in Maryland — two in Prince George’s County and two at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase — for teens to voice their concerns.
Helping her with the meetings were her brother, Kai Huang, 16, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, and Marlena Nothwehr, 17, a senior at Richard Montgomery.
“I thought the whole project was interesting because health is considered a serious adult topic, but teenagers have ideas too,” Nothwehr said.”The main concern youth was trying to get across was sleep and stress, but they were also concerned about mental health.”
Huang said interest in the project showed that teens are thinking about the future.
During the meetings, she included a challenge to the teens to come up with solutions to the problems they identified.
“The solution to [not enough] sleep is time management,” she said. “Say ‘no’ to activities and put the cellphone down.”
Kai Huang said he was brought into the project because his sister needed help one day and he said yes. It turned out to be fun for him.
“I was really engrossed,” he said. “I liked talking to the [other] teens. You got to see how they thought. They had a lot of good ideas.”
He agreed with Nothwehr that teens are concerned abut mental health, but the one thing that stood out to him was that many teens don’t get enough sleep. That’s something he he knows first-hand, he said.
Along with Head, Heart and Hand, Health is one of the four H’s, said Jennifer Sirangelo, President and CEO of the National 4-H Council.
“The young people really wanted to engage about health,” she said. “They see health as holistic and they are paying attention to health care access.”
Sirangelo said getting teens to talk about health concerns and solutions benefits not only them, but also their families and communities.
“Teens often influence their parents when they come home with new ideas,” she said.
As a result of the survey, the National 4-H Council plans to develop and enhance programs around mental and emotional health, provide leadership opportunities for teens, and model healthful behaviors at youth events, ensuring they include nutritious food, physical activity and early bedtimes, according to a summary of the project findings. The report can be found at 4-H.org.