Rural youth are at greater risk than urban youth for obesity and physical inactivity. Active living research incorporates an ecological approach to promoting physical activity (PA) by recognizing that individual behavior, social environments, physical environments, and policies contribute to behavior change. Active living research and interventions have been limited primarily to urban settings. Because rural communities have unique environmental features and sociocultural characteristics, this project combines insights from current active living models with more focused consideration of the physical and social realities of rural areas. In this study, we report on our efforts to develop, test, and refine a conceptual model describing the interaction between the individual and the environment as it enhances or thwarts active living in rural communities. Our findings revealed a host of relevant "predisposing" and "enabling" factors, including sociodemographic, environmental, policy, and programmatic elements, that extend across the four domains of active living--transportation, recreation, occupation, and household. A one-size approach to PA promotion will not fit the needs of rural youth. Given the unique challenges that rural communities face, efforts to combat childhood obesity must consider rural residents a priority population. More research, interventions, and evaluations on ways to promote rural PA are needed.
Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy
Active Living for Rural Youth: Addressing Physical Inactivity in Rural Communities
Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system
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.