Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Population Health and Health Policy

Active Living for Rural Youth

1/1/2007 - 1/31/2007
Anush Yousefian Hansen
Principal Investigator: 
David Hartley

This project will investigate how and where rural youth in Maine are physically active, and will help to define the built and natural environmental factors that support and limit daily physical activity of youth in rural communities. Through qualitative data collection, students in grades 4-12 in 3 selected rural, low-income Maine communities will provide information about their physical activity patterns and their perceptions of physical and social environments that support or create barriers to physical activity. This information will be used to develop hypotheses and create a conceptual model about environmental and policy characteristics that positively and/or negatively impact physical activity of youth specifically in rural areas. The conceptual model will draw from the existing "3 D" model used in the urban planning and transportation fields, which defines the core dimensions of built environments as density, diversity, and design. The 3 D model will be adapted to fit into a rural context, and used to develop measures of the environment (both natural and built) in rural communities and assess how those measured environmental characteristics affect the physical activity of youth. This project provides a strategic opportunity to increase the School's Public Health capacity and foster collaboration between academic and research programs (CPD & IHP).

Start Date: 
Mon, 2007-01-01
End Date: 
Wed, 2007-01-31
Legacy Muskie ID: 

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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