HealthCorps Works to Improve Teen Health in Delaware

HealthCorps, an innovative program educating and empowering teens to take control of their health, expands its footprint to the First State.

HealthCorps, a national nonprofit that provides health and wellness education to teens in under-resourced communities, has formed new partnerships in the First State. Created in 2003 by Delaware native Mehmet Oz, M.D., and his wife Lisa Oz in collaboration with New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, the program was a response to the country’s growing childhood-obesity epidemic that dovetailed with Healthy People 2010, a nationwide agenda spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focused on mitigating disease and promoting health.

In September 2023, over 80 Delaware philanthropists and supporters of HealthCorps joined founders Dr. Mehmet Oz and Lisa Oz at the home of Jeff and Kim Rollins in Greenville to raise funds and awareness.

“To host an event that will have such a direct impact on Delaware teens is incredibly gratifying,” says Rollins, who hosted the fundraising event in her Greenville home. “As a member of the organization’s Board of Advisors, I’m aware that 75% of the teens that go through the HealthCorps program are not only motivated to take care of their health but are motivated to help family and friends improve theirs. That’s a game changer for Delaware.”

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Members of the event host committee. Amy Braun, Inci Porter, Kim Rollins, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Lisa Oz, Mary Ann Kelly MacDonald, Jimmy Horty, Linda Ferrara. Photo courtesy of Michelle Marquez / Jim Graham Photography.

Realizing that teens were not receiving basic wellness education, HealthCorps envisioned a school-based format where easy-to-remember and replicate health tips could be shared with students, explains Amy Braun, the organization’s president and CEO. It’s since raised over $80 million to aid more than 300 U.S. schools—and 87% of students surveyed reported changing at least one targeted health behavior like a healthier diet or greater mindfulness. Some have convinced their family to also adopt them.

“Since 2003, HealthCorps has been working on the frontlines in high-need urban and rural schools bringing health and hope to students and their families,” says Dr. Oz. “We nourish the minds and bodies of our nation’s most vulnerable teens, providing them with health-saving skills and a platform for their personal development through mentorship and leadership opportunities. Third-party research proves our program works. We are grateful for the support of the Delaware community and excited to provide this program here.”

Under the HealthCorps model, college-age (“near-peer”) mentors impart valuable guidance and support to middle and high school students, fostering a connection at a time when social connections and mentors are lacking.

“We are really impacting two separate groups of young adults as they set their course for careers and healthy futures,” Braun says. “Our college mentors get as much out of the program as our teens. We are very excited to bring the program to Delaware.” Teen Warehouse and Odyssey Charter School are our state’s first institutions to benefit from the program.

The national 501c3 organization empowers teens to take control of their health through educational programming, leadership experiences and service learning. Since its inception, the organization has impacted 2.5 million teens in middle and high schools across the nation through in-school and out-of-school programs. Additionally, over one million students, parents, teachers and administrators have utilized HealthCorps’ digital curriculum.

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The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey notes that 37% of teens in Delaware report consistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and over 18% consider suicide, with almost 9% actually making an attempt. And according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, 38% of Delaware children and teens (ages 10-17) are overweight or obese. Programs like HealthCorps aim to improve these statistics by helping teens feel empowered to improve their own mental and physical health.

“The challenges facing Delaware teens have changed significantly over the last several years,” Braun explains. “Our current generation of teens is facing unprecedented challenges in their physical health, behavioral health and social needs. The good news is that HealthCorps will address these challenges and encourage teens to take on health leadership roles in Delaware’s communities.”

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In addition to helping teens, HealthCorps is dedicated to developing the next generation of public-health leaders, Braun says. “The educational experiences, mentoring, community-building and professional development the program delivers [are] building a network of leaders that will inspire change on campuses and in [communities].”

For more information on HealthCorps, visit its website.

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