IU Bloomington public health researchers combining sport and health messages to help youth in Ghana

Oct. 15, 2013


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Researchers from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington plan to use recreational sports, in the form of basketball, soccer and volleyball after-school programs, to help boys and girls in Ghana avoid problems associated with substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.

Funded with a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, the IU team will work with partners at the University of Cape Coast and local government officials in Apewosika Township, a rural area along the Gulf of Guinea, to train the coaches and sport personnel needed to conduct the after-school programs.

"Sports is the tool to reach youth and help them enjoy healthier lives," said Sarah Young, associate professor in the School of Public Health's Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. "These are youth with average or below average sports skills. They are not elite athletes, but they just want to play sports and have fun."

'Time Out for Healthy Living'

Much will be expected from the youth sport coaches and staff, who like their American counterparts often are volunteers. Coaches will teach the youth, ages 10 to 16, skills for their sport, rules and leadership elements that so often come with youth sports. They also will convey health messages in brief, informal "Time Out for Healthy Living" sessions, a key component of Young's Youth Enrichment through Sports-Ghana initiative.

Young is teaming up with her colleague Craig Ross, professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, as well as with Cecilia Obeng, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science, and Debby Herbenick, co-director of the school's Center for Sexual Health Promotion, for the health and wellness component of YES-Ghana. Samuel Obeng, director of the African Studies Program at IU Bloomington, also is a key part of the IU team.

When the 16 coaches and staff selected for the program visit Bloomington next summer, they will attend a two-week workshop on a range of topics, including sports program delivery, rules and strategies, sports officiating, injury prevention, and planning. The health education sessions will focus on substance abuse, reduction of HIV-related stigma, and prevention and management of sexually transmissible infections, such as HIV. In Ghana, as in many African countries, alcohol is easily accessible to youth, with many varieties of cheap and potent beverages. Concerning HIV and AIDS, safe sex behaviors have been slow to catch on despite the growing awareness of the disease.

About the School of Public Health-Bloomington

With nearly 3,000 students in an array of undergraduate and advanced degree programs, the School of Public Health-Bloomington offers a traditional campus experience enriched by 21st-century innovation. More than 120 faculty in five academic departments -- Department of Kinesiology; Department of Applied Health Science; Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies; Department of Environmental Health; and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics -- conduct research, teach and engage with communities across a broad spectrum of health, wellness and disease-prevention topics. Each department offers numerous majors, minors and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate studies. In addition to its academic departments, the school administers Campus Recreational Sports, which serves roughly 80 percent of the IU Bloomington student body through various intramural, club and individual sports opportunities.