"We often say that when you educate a girl, you educate communities. The impact of girls being educated is very much far-reaching. When women are educated and healthy, it impacts not just the woman, it impacts households, their children, and their community." –Renee Daniel Flagler, Executive Director of Girls Inc. Long Island.
While many young people understand the importance of healthy habits, they aren't always aware of how these habits impact their kidneys. National Kidney Foundation has teamed up with Girls Inc., a youth development and advocacy organization, to change the story.
Together, we're empowering young women to be strong in terms of health, smart about their eating habits, and bold enough to take charge of their choices.
Teaming up to change lives
When Renee Daniel Flagler, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Long Island, heard about Your Kidneys and Youth, a program that helps young people take control of their kidney health, she knew it would benefit the girls in their afterschool programs.
"Our mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold and we operationalize through that strong, smart, and bold mission," Flagler said. "Strong also equates to healthy, smart to educated, and bold to independent living. So, the kidney program was actually really good for us because it was another way to incorporate healthy living into the lifestyles of girls by teaching them about kidney health and the impact [of kidney disease]."
Flagler worked with the NKF serving Greater New York to bring this message to a group of young women participating in a Girls Inc. afterschool program.
"Your Kidneys and Youth focuses on explaining what kidneys do in your body and how to prevent kidney disease through healthy living," said Saskia Thomson, Executive Director for National Kidney Foundation serving Greater New York. "We are providing information that is not just important, but it's also fun. We created YKAY so that the young ladies in the program could start to internalize the messages about healthy living, learn how to prepare a healthy snack, and bring that home to their families."
Life lessons: keep moving, choose water, and eat healthily
When the program started, most of the class didn't know much about kidneys. However, they were eager to learn and walked away with a greater understanding of how kidneys function and what choices they can make today to stay healthy in the future.
"We talked about what the kidneys do, where they are, and activities to keep their kidneys healthy," said Program Director, Monique Hardin-Cordero. "We focused on three main things. Keep moving, choose water, and eat healthy."
To help this lesson stick, a kidney dietician helped everyone prepare homemade Tzatziki, whole wheat pita chips, and strawberry-cucumber water.
"They were chopping, cutting, and talking which is really nice because it shows the social aspects of preparing healthy food together." Thomson said, "It's a lot more social and engaging than picking out a bag of chips."
Each girl took home recipes, a water bottle, and the practical skills they'll need to take control of their health today.
The impact doesn't end here
The session may have ended, but the lessons learned will last a lifetime.
"In some communities, there are more dialysis centers than in other communities. So it's conceivable that kids are growing up thinking that this is a predetermined part of life," said Thomson, "Your Kidneys and Youth shows that it doesn't have to be that way. You can be smart and bold and take control of your health."
By teaching young adults how to take care of their bodies now, we’re teaching them that kidney disease and dialysis don’t have to be in their future.
"Girls Inc. serves a very high percentage of girls that are from black and brown communities. Statistics have consistently shown that diabetes and kidney disease impact communities of color at much higher rates. I know that in my family, I have several family members who have all been on dialysis." However, Flagler said, “There's help, support, and opportunities. There are all these things that you can do and I think more people need to know that they can tap into the National Kidney Foundation.”
Now this group of students has the tools to stay healthy and can share what they've learned with their parents, siblings, friends, and extended family. As the information spreads, more people will gain the skills and knowledge to protect their kidneys.
"Besides engaging with, in this case, young women, we know that they'll take the information home." Hardin-Cordero said, "That is magnifying our impact because it'll hopefully get out into the community. Just by having those conversations at home, we know that we're making a difference."
Your Kidneys and Youth
Spread the message by talking with your children or students about kidney health. We’ve created a toolkit, fun videos, coloring pages, and more all with your classroom or home in mind. Sign up now for free.