Grassroots Health advances health equity by providing health education for youth, connecting youth and their families to health services, and mobilizing NCAA athletes to be public health leaders. Since 2009, we have partnered with more than 50 schools to provide weekly health education programs that increase health literacy and improve health-related attitudes and behaviors.
Our innovative model trains NCAA athletes as volunteer health educators and role models. These athletes then work once per week throughout the academic semester, delivering a structured series of one-hour modules on mental, nutritional/physical, and sexual health during middle school PE classes. Youth that complete Grassroots programs not only increase their health literacy, but they also feel more comfortable talking openly about mental, physical, and sexual health, and they are less intimidated to seek help from clinical and social providers.
Grassroots Health’s model for health education is rooted in movement and physical activity, and our curriculum includes more than 30 games-based activities that each carry distinct health messages. Using sports to teach about health not only makes our curriculum fun and engaging, but it also enables us to help our schools meet physical education requirements at the same time as achieving their health education goals.
We reach students throughout each year of middle school, creating a 3-year pipeline that includes mental, physical, and sexual health. We built these curricula using extensive community research that incorporate diverse perspectives about how best to improve adolescent health. In addition to our pipeline programs, we offer family programs for parents and caregivers and an end-of-program celebration to connect youth with clinical health providers in their neighborhoods. Good health begins at the community level, and we believe that everyone has a role to play in advancing health equity.
We collected the data points below from pre/post surveys of students in the 2021-22 academic year. Students complete surveys before and after their 10-week health program to assess changes in students’ health knowledge, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs, and confidence to apply concepts in real-life situations. Grassroots uses this data to inform curriculum adaptation.
*significant growth = growth from individuals matched pre/post surveys using a paired T-Test analysis
In the US, nearly 1 in 5 children are considered obese. Poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity are significant risk factors for obesity and other chronic diseases. They also impact students’ academic outcomes, and they have also been linked to students’ mental health.
In our program, students are able to apply their knowledge to real-life scenarios like navigating healthier choices in the context of corner stores and fast food restaurants, as well as breaking down barriers to achieving balanced nutrition and physical activity in our community.
According to the CDC, youth ages 15-24 account for half of the 20 million new STIs that occur in the USA each year 1 in 12 DC middle school boys reports having sex by age 11 (YRBS, 2019) 16% of DC youth (aged 13-24) were living with chlamydia or gonorrhea in 2017. In 2018, 62% of all reported cases of chlamydial infections were among persons aged 15-24 years old.
Our students learn safe sex and risk avoidance, including medically accurate, age-appropriate information about sexual health. Our curriculum also covers life skills and social skills related to sexual health. The goal is that 7th graders leave this program better equipped to make healthy choices when it comes to their sexual health, and feel confident about where they can access accurate information as they progress through adolescence.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 U.S. adults lives with a mental health disorder. It is overdue that our communities stomp out the stigma around mental health. According to the CDC, half of chronic mental health conditions begin by the age of 14. Through mental health promotion education, individuals are shown a more accurate representation of the human experience. A focus on mental health reduces the stigma associated with mental illness and sparks a dialogue about mental health as something everyone has.
Students are able to identify where they can promote their own mental health and seek treatment options in their communities if they need it. These interventions at the individual and community level can ultimately improve positive mental health outcomes.
Grassroots Fam brings parents and caregivers together to create a space for improving communication about challenging health topics with youth
“Grassroots Health has been phenomenal. It actually helps parents/grandparents understand world issues with our kids and adults. I would advise more parents to participate in this program and spread the word as we deal with mental illnesses and STIs, etc. This information is power!” -Grandma Shiela, KIPP Will
Grassroots Connect provides a space to celebrate students while also connecting students and their families to other community-based organizations and health service providers. We held 4 events, all at Howard University, this year!