|Reviewers Comments: ||Inspiring Youth, Growing Change provides an overview of the Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI), a Network for a Health California project which began in 2006. Although this report is not a formal evaluation of the project, it does provide information on impacts, successes, and challenges experienced since implementation. The data and information in this report was attained through key informant interviews with adult allies and project coordinators from seven project sites. The youth voice is not represented.
The report starts with details of the YEI, an initiative designed to contribute to a goal of increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and increasing daily activity among low-income families. YEI is carried out through various project sites that conduct youth-lead participatory action research (PAR) projects with middle and high school youth.
The report then covers the impacts of youth research projects, as noted and observed by the interviewees. These impacts are broken out into four areas:
- Eating and physical activity behavior changes among youth, their peers, and family.
- School and community changes that increase the availability of fruit, vegetables, and clean drinking water.
- New skills acquired by students and new experiences for students.
- Projects expansion to include more sites, new partners, receive additional funding, media attention, and other health improvement efforts.
Interviewees observed that changes to school and community environments were hardest to achieve, while changes to eating habits and news skills and experiences for participants were commonly observed. This section includes many specific examples.
Implementation challenges experienced are covered next. The detailed challenges include time pressure, gaining adult buy-in, motivating participants and participation, ensuring a youth-lead approach, staff turnover, navigating bureaucracy, the evaluation and sharing process, and technical assistance. This section gives a general summary of each challenge, which is often applicable to any youth-led program and sometimes any nutrition education program. Specific examples are also provided.
The Advice from the Field section contains a “top ten” list that is a compilation of advice that adult project staff have for those interested in youth-led PAR projects. Finally, the report has a Case Study section. More than true case studies, this section details some of specific project sites programs, successes and experiences.
This report could be a useful tool for a nutrition educator in designing a youth-led intervention. Using the information provided, educators could effectively design and implement programs and be better able to anticipate and possibly mitigate challenges that could arise.