Presenting at the AAHPERD National Health Conference

The 125th American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) National Convention and Exposition in Indianapolis, Indiana was attended by over 5,400 health professionals and students from educational institutions, sports organizations, private industry, and government agencies.  I attended as a college professor and AAHPERD member as well as a member of the American Association for Health Education (AAHE).

There were so many opportunities to meet with colleagues and exchange information that one first time attendee told me that she found the experience to be overwhelming.  I was fortunate that as a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) I was able to earn continuing education units (CEUs) by attending a number of AAHE presentations.  The CEU track gave me a roadmap of learning sessions of interest to me as a health educator.

The first session I attended was “Health Education in the 21st Century.”  This session presented the Six Critical Health Behaviors of adolescent health and the National Health Education Standards (NHES) for students.  We also touched upon the preliminary information for the national health blueprint, Healthy People 2020.  I was pleased to share a round table experience with a Senior Associate at the Council of Chief State School Officers (Washington, DC) and a Health Education Specialist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Atlanta, GA). 

Other conference sessions included discussion of social networking as a health education tool; the latest qualifications for the evolving certification of Master CHES (MCHES) for more experienced health educators like me; strategies to improve the quality of physical education; bullying and homophobia in schools; and an overview of an upcoming CDC report discussing the relationship between physical activity / sports and academic performance.

A highlight of the convention was presenting my pedometer research, “Pedometers in the Curriculum: Enhancing Student Success Through Wellness Education.”  This research demonstrated that adding pedometers to an existing Wellness curriculum helped students increase their physical activity.  The information I presented was well received.  Fellowes of AAHE recommended future areas of research based on my findings.

The final presentation I attended was on nutrition and the distribution of fast-food restaurants and high-end grocery stores according to household income.  This research validated my personal observation that there are more fast-food restaurants in low income neighborhoods and more high-end grocery stores in higher-income neighborhoods.  Of note was that members of low-income households often buy food at the local convenience store where foods of nutritional value are limited and prices are higher.   As stated in the forum, “the poor pay more.”  This highlights a challenge to health educators in that if we want people to change their healthy eating behavior, we need to provide greater access to more nutritious food choices.

The exchange of information at this and other sessions was invaluable.  I look forward to attending next year’s AAHPERD conference in San Diego.

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