Ann Chester, Ph.D. Sara Hanks, MPH Summer Kuhn, MPH Floyd Jones, Ph.D. Travis White, PharmD Misty Harris, MPH Bethany Hornbeck Sherron McKendall, MS Mary McMillion, MS Cathy Morton, Ed.D. Mallory Slusser, MA R. Kyle Saunders, MA

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Abstract

Background: Some STEM outreach programs connect students to real-world problems and challenge them to work towards solutions.  Research shows one-third of children between ages 5-17 in the U.S. are overweight. Socioeconomic status, race, and parental educational attainment all influence this issue as well as living in a rural or urban area. A rural high school STEM outreach program used a social media curriculum focused on healthy lifestyles and measured impact on the health of adolescents from these backgrounds.


Methods: Health screenings and college mentors were provided to 134 adolescents from 26 counties in WV.  The social media intervention lasted seven months with participants using near-peer and mentor support to achieve personal health goals set at the initial health screening. The results of pre- and post-intervention health screenings were compared for any changes in health measures by student goal and participation.


Results: BMI decreased significantly in the group of participants who selected a weight loss goal, while those choosing to improve their nutrition significantly increased healthy cholesterol levels.


Conclusions:  A positive impact was seen on adolescent health outcomes through linking a high school STEM outreach program with a higher education institution to deliver STEM enrichment curriculum through social media.

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