Media Advisory: ‘Physical Health & Well-Being for Youth’ Focus of U.Va. Conference

October 04, 2013

Behavior undertaken in adolescence shapes a lifetime of habits and health long into adulthood. How do early behaviors impact youths’ lives now and as they grow older? What can we do now to ensure their well-being at this important time of development?

This is the topic of the upcoming Youth-Nex conference, to be held Oct. 10 and 11.

The invitation-only event, held at the University of Virginia’s Alumni Hall, will bring together some of the nation’s leading scholars, practitioners and policy leaders to inspire action to improve youth health.

Studies show regular physical activity helps reduce the physical and mental risks for youth, from developing obesity, depression and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer, to helping improve students’ academic performance. Yet the percentage of high school students who attended physical education classes daily decreased from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 1995 and remained stable at that level until 2011 (31 percent).

According to a 2011 nationally representative survey, only 29 percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on each of the seven days before the survey.  And participation in physical activity has been shown to decline as young people age.

The conference will begin Oct. 10 at 9 a.m. at Alumni Hall. A few highlights:

• Ali Smith will discuss his work as co-founder of Baltimore’s Holistic Life Foundation, which has been featured in the “Making a Difference” segment of the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” He has developed and piloted yoga and mindfulness programs with at-risk youth, at drug treatment centers, juvenile detention centers, alternative high schools, mental crisis facilities and in many other underserved communities. For the past four years he has partnered with The Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Health and Penn State University’s Prevention Research Center on a federally funded randomized controlled trial in Baltimore City Public Schools, studying the effectiveness of yoga and mindfulness on urban youth.

• ACAC founder Phil Wendel will speak about increasing physical activity for youth from the fitness industry perspective. Wendel also founded Charlottesville’s Worldstrides, one of the world’s largest student travel companies.

• Seventh-grade student Noah Carpenter from the NFL’s  “Fuel Up to Play 60” program will discuss his activism to improve healthful eating and increase physical activity of his classmates. During the recent school year, Carpenter tracked his own healthy eating and activity, helped run a Smoothie Event, organized a Great Race, hosted a Tailgate Lunch and put on a Cooking Challenge. The 2013-14 school year has just started and he and his student team are planning to improve lunch as well get students moving during recess.

• Dr. Matthew Trowbridge will discuss how architecture, such as school buildings, impact children’s health. (View the dramatic, award-winning renovation of the Dillwyn school he collaborated on here, which now includes a food lab, a teaching kitchen, edible native landscaping, outdoor dining and a school garden.)

• Keynote speaker William H. Dietz, former director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will give his perspective on what can be done to increase physical activity in youth.


Conference Schedule and Panelist Biographies

The six conference panels are:

Overview of Physical Activity and Healthy Eating (Oct. 10, 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m)

Growing national recognition of the importance of physical activity, fitness and sound nutrition has led to important recommendations in promoting youth health and well-being. This panel incorporates three presentations that provide authoritative understanding of the importance of physical activity and healthful eating habits for youth.

Speakers and topics:

Russell Pate, “Health Effects of Physical Activity in Children and Youth: Strengths and Limitations of the Scientific Evidence”
Charles Hillman, “The Relation of Childhood Fitness and Adiposity to Cognitive and Brain Health”
Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D., L.D. - “Eat Your Vegetables! Benefits of Healthy Eating in Youth”
(Moderator: Arthur L. Weltman, chair of U.Va.’s kinesiology department)

12:15-1:15 p.m. – Lunch presentation
Dr. Matthew Trowbridge,
“Health & Place: How Our Built Environments Impact Children’s Health”

Strategies to Increase Physical Activity (Oct. 10, 1:15 p.m. - 3 p.m.)

How can we increase physical activity in children and adolescents? The presentations in this panel discussion will describe programs that have successfully increased physical activity at preschool, in the home, at school, in communities and in the private sector. Speakers and topics:

Dianne Ward, “Moving Kids at Preschool and at Home”
Joseph E. Donnelly, “Physical Activity and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children”
Christina Economos, “Catalyzing Communities to Prevent Obesity: A Systems Approach”
Phil Wendel, “Increasing Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents from the Fitness Industry Perspective”
(Moderator: Arthur L. Weltman)

Nutrition and Healthful Eating (Oct. 11, 9-10:30 a.m.)

As we understand more about what defines good nutrition, we are also increasingly understanding the importance of instilling healthy eating habits for youth in the context of family, school and sport. This varied panel covers major topics within this under-considered, but important area of youth development. Speakers and topics:

Kirsten Davison, “Developing Sustainable Family-Centered Obesity Interventions: What Can We Learn from Developmental Psychology and Implementation Science?”
Randy Bird, “Game-Breaking Nutrition: Athletic & Academic Development of the Young Athlete”
Noah Carpenter and Elizabeth ‘Bet’ Howrigan, “Students Taking Action for Improved Nutrition and Physical Activity at School – with Fuel Up to Play 60”
(Moderator- Susan Saliba, U.Va.)

Mindfulness, Health and Well-Being: The Mind-Body Connection (Oct. 11, 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.)

Research with adults has found that contemplative practices such as mindfulness and yoga promote a variety of benefits for physical and emotional well-being. This panel will provide an overview of the growing body of research on such activities for youth that have been integrated into school settings and which are designed to affect students’ attention, behavior and academic achievement. Speakers and topics:

Patricia Jennings, “Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Promoting Student Learning, Attention and Self-Regulation”
Sheri Rand, “Mindfulness that Matters: Reclaiming Wellness for Youth and Adolescents”
Ali Smith, “From Inner Health to Outer Health”
(Moderator: David Germano, U.Va.)

Injury Prevention and Treatment (Oct. 11, 1:15-2:45 p.m.)

While being physically active is important for positive youth development, injuries can result. This panel will discuss ways to minimize injury, particularly concussions, while addressing the impact of sport-related injury on quality of life. The panel will also provide a blueprint for encouraging life-long physical activity. Speakers and topics:

Michael F. Bergeron, “Youth Sports: Encouraging Participation and Lifelong Physical Activity, Fitness and Health”
Donna K. Broshek, “Sports Concussions in Children and Adolescents”
Tamara Valovich McLeod, “The Impact of Sport-Related Injury on Health-Related Quality of Life”
(Moderator: Jay Hertel, U.Va.)

Wrap-Up (Oct. 11, 3- 4:30 p.m.)

This panel will kick off the final discussion of the conference’s two-day dialogue. Panelists will suggest directions for public policy to help promote physical activity, health and well-being in children and adolescents. Speakers and topics:

Aleta L. Meyer, “The Impact of Chronic Stress on Adolescent Health and Well-Being: Implications for Services”
Virginia Sen. John Miller, “Becoming an Advocate for Change”
Karen Talbert Addison, Assistant Secretary for Children’s Health and Education
Patrick Tolan, “Positive Youth Development and Physical Health and Well-Being”
(Moderator: Patrick Tolan, U.Va.)

Media Contact

Ellen Daniels

Curry School of Education