Healthy Habits, Healthy U (HHHU), a community outreach initiative involving Boise State Health Sciences students and designed to teach and reinforce positive habits in children, has officially become part of the required eighth grade curriculum in the Boise School District health classes.
HHHU is a collaboration between St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI), Boise State University, and the Boise School District. The program started in April 2013 and to date has reached over 3,000 fourth and eight-grade students.
The program consists of two days of lesson plans and focuses on the positive connection between increased physical activity and healthy food beverage choices with reduced cancer risks. Day one is taught by the classroom teacher who focuses on what cancer is and how healthy habits can reduce cancer risks. Day two consists of St. Luke’s MSTI and Boise State faculty and students reinforcing the previous day’s lesson using interactive discussions and hands-on activities.
St. Luke’s pathology lab provides cancerous and non-cancerous tissue samples for students to examine. The samples give the students a more tangible understanding of how poor health habits can increase cancer risks and impact the functions of various organs.
At the end of the lessons, the students share their current poor health habits and how they can improve their behaviors. All students receive a parental handout about the program and useful tips on how to decrease the risk of cancer.
In the fall of 2015, a short-term outcome evaluation was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the HHHU program. Pretests and posttests were used to measure increased knowledge and behavioral intent in the 439 participants. The students who participated in HHHU before the study more accurately identified unhealthy habits and provided a way to replace said habits with healthy ones.
The analysis of the study data suggested that HHHU is increasing students’ knowledge about cancer and the health habits that influence the cancer risk. HHHU will continue to seek evaluation to reinforce the evidence-based program.