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Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Empowering Youth to Take Charge of Their Health
Guest article written by Peter
Young people are in the midst
of an unprecedented health crisis.For the first timeyoung
people have ailments that used to be limited to adults. According to the
Centers for Disease Control (2013), childhood obesity has doubled in young
children and tripled in adolescents in the past30 years. Type
2 diabetes, a disease normally seen in adults over 40, is on the rise in
children and adolescents (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). The number of
cases of nonalcoholic fatter liver disease in young people over the age of 10
is on the rise (Vajro et al., 2012).
These are not the only health
issues today’s young people are faced with. As the info-graphic below shows,
mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar and mood disorders
are prevalent in adolescents and young adults. The World Health Organization
(2012) estimates that 20 percent of adolescents worldwide experience a mental
health problem every year.
Source: Alyssa Celebre via
Add in the approximately 3.5
million young people that are taking medications for Attention Deficit Disorder
(ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the fact that
some estimates suggest that half of young people, ages 6 to 21, in the United
States have some form oflearningdisability,
it’s no wonder that many young people today feel confused, out of touch with
themselves and powerless to do anything to change their situation.
Here’s the good news! These statisticscanbe changed and young peoplecantake charge of their health. This is
the focus of my work atyouthtransformation.com.I have witnessed these statistics firsthand and believe
that young people need to know that they have a say in how their life unfolds.
Young people are often confused
by the mixed messages they receive about health from the media, family, friends
and society at large. On one hand, they are shown unrealistic images of
lean-muscled female and male bodies that are airbrushed and/or touched up to
hide imperfections as the ultimate in health; these images are confusing,
unrealistic and represent a limited view of health.
While the people in these
images may indeed be healthy, we have no real way of knowing that. On the other
hand, young people are told to be healthy and that being healthy is important,
yet they are surrounded by a sea of junk, imitations and distorted views of
life that are available 24 hours a day.
They are bombarded withadvertising imagesspecifically developed for their age
group with their developmental needs, wants and desires factored in.
So what can we do? In my work,
I empower young people to take charge of their health and be the masters of
their lives. One of the main ways to do this is to help young people know
themselves. Giving young people time to reflect, think and be still is key in
helping them getting to know themselves, what they need, and ultimately, what
works for them.
As young people get to know
themselves, they begin to understand the needs theyshare with
others and the needs that are unique to them. In turn, this also
increases their ability to empathize with others. Knowing their unique
needs is an important step in young people’s ability to make decisions that are
best for them.
Support from adults is key in
empowering young people to take charge of their health and be the masters of
their lives. This is especially important when making lifestyle changes.
In essence, all of the work is about making changes that become a way of life,
not an add-on or a chore.
Another key area I focus on ishealthy eating.
This doesn't mean going on a ‘diet.’ It’s about finding ways to eat foods
that are delicious, nutritious and work best for each individual young
person. Sometimes this is about a shift towards eating more whole foods;
other times it is about transitioning from patterns of behavior that result in
unhealthy eating habits. Most of the time it’s about the young person being
empowered to make the best food choices for them based on self-knowledge,
exploration and careful consideration.
Peter Berg, A.B.D, M.S.,
The founder ofYouth TransformationsandEducational Transfomation.org,is a board certified holistic
health and mental healthcoach,
a teacher, educational administrator, community organizer, educational
consultant, school developer, national trainer and an expert in and an advocate
integratededucation. He has written extensively onalternative, holistic, integrated
educational theory and techniques and has founded and co-founded non-profit
community and environmental-based organizations.
Peter received his
Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies andEducationfrom AntiochUniversity and is currently finishing
his Doctoral research atWaldenUniversity, which explores
the ties between school leadership and progressive and holisticeducation.
Peter maintains partnerships
and affiliations with organizations that promote sustainability, social and
environmental justice, human rights and holistic health. Often
this work entails bringing these organizations together to form partnerships
and exchange ideas. Peter has consulted on various start-up schools throughout
the country and continues to offer consultations to national and international
organizations, schools and individuals.