With tight budgets and increasing pressures to use classroom time for test preparation, schools may lack the bandwidth to pursue wellness initiatives. To help them, other entities — such as health systems and community organizations — need to be involved in school-based prevention initiatives, especially in places where obesity rates are high.
– Samantha Dupont, MPH, Institute for Health Policy, Kaiser Permanente
Making healthy choices about food and exercise isn’t easy for kids . They’re often faced with navigating around the tasty ease of junk food and the tricky allure of hour after hour of screen time. To help them, parents and schools need to find creative ways to displace unhealthy habits with easier alternatives.
Better yet, what if we had talented, confident, engaging young extroverts who could magically appear, capture kids’ attention and focus their minds on the power they hold to make conscious choices that are good for their bodies, brains, and hearts?
That’s precisely what Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theater Program (ETP) was created to do when it began in the 1980s. ETP recruits and trains talented, confident young adults to bring health lessons to life by offering free, live performances to local schools in areas with Kaiser Permanente members. The priority is on schools in low-income communities.
ETP programs touch on critical issues from bullying to puberty and grief to HIV prevention. Teams of health professionals, educators, parents and community advisory groups serve as experts in their fields, helping to create relevant ETP programs that meet the needs of the entire community.
Here is a quick look at three ETP productions that are part of a series called The Best Me:
“The Best Me,” takes up the issue of childhood obesity. When the school’s big talent show is in danger of being canceled, it’s up to the students to save the day. With the help of the audience and a few fantastic new friends, they learn the importance of healthy eating, active living, and working together. Audiences are asked, “What will your Best Me Promise be?”
In “Tino Chooses Water,” a bilingual drinker of soda finds himself surrounded by the menacing, hypnotic Soda Can Man and his enticing but deceitful comrade, Fruit Drink. Unamused and unafraid, Hydro Girl uses her squirt bottle to bring their seductive sucrose spell to an end, then exposes the criminal amount of sugar in both drinks. With help from the crowd, Tino chooses water, finds his A-Game and ends up “Sorprendentemente [surprisingly] refreshed!”
In “Make Health Sing,” a trio of divas blessed with day-glow bouffant hair assist a newbie starlet to claim her “right to be fierce.” Together they tap the crowd for ideas to fill a healthy dinner plate with a yummy chicken dish, veggies, whole grains and fruit that makes for a sweet treat. The starlet lets her gospel talent rise to celebrate the spirit of all that’s crispy, crunchy and good.
In addition to the performances, ETP offers:
• Supplemental educational materials that teachers and parents can use to reinforce lessons
• Youth leadership programs
• Residency programs, where actor-educators are embedded in a school or community
Over the years, ETP has reached more than 15 million students and family members across nine states and the District of Columbia.
To learn more or request an ETP performance, visit the ETP website .
Learn how ETP uses the stage as a classroom in a recent article published on Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Policy website.
Read our 4-part series on how ETP in Colorado have helped to inspire a youth movement for health.
And learn how ETP in Northern California inspired an art mural about peace.