Every 4-H'er knows about pledging their “health to better living” which involves more than just physical health but strengthening the inner self as well. As health has become a more prevalent issue in recent years, 4-H created the “Health Rocks!’ curriculum for 8-to-12 year olds in an effort to reduce youth tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug usage.
The program focuses on building life skills and good decision making abilities to help youth develop the internal strength needed to resist engaging in these risky behaviors. It is imperative youth understand that choosing to engage in harmful behavior affects them for the rest of their lives. Youth who are focused on the future and have clear goals are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors.
Life skills are abilities and tools youth can learn to help them lead productive and satisfying lives. This includes being resilient and managing feelings. Each activity in the curriculum helps develop major life skills pertaining to making the right choices.
Activities in the curriculum are experientially based, hands-on and engaging. Youth-adult partnerships, where teens help teach the material and serve as mentors to youth, are beneficial and encouraged when using the program. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention says children experience risk and protective factors across all domains including family and community. Parents play an important role in prevention; hence, the curriculum contains sections called Home and Communities which give ideas for extending learning.
Because recent statistics are surprising, there is a need to focus on preventing risky behavior in youth.
- Each day in the US, 3000 kids younger than 18 begin smoking tobacco
- 40% of eight graders have tried cigarettes while 15% smoke daily
- More than 4.5 million teenagers smoke in the US today
- According to FDA at least 1/3 of children who begin smoking today will die from a tobacco-related disease
- Tobacco use often leads to experimentation with other substance abuse
- More than half of all 8th graders have consumed alcohol and more than one fourth have been drunk
- More than half of America’s youth have tried an illicit drug by the end of high school.
Many but not all youth the curriculum reaches will have already tried some type of drug. However, some are at the point of deciding whether to experiment with substances and some may know people who do. The curriculum ultimately seeks to support youth in developing skills that will help them lead healthy lives.