The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Jumping into Health: 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors

A new "crop" of Healthy Living Ambassadors at Tucson Village Farm will be jumping into action organizers start to review submitted applications from teens just in the past couple of weeks.

The Arizona 4-H Healthy Living Ambassador (HLA) program aims to teach teens about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and encourages them to promote those concepts to others. 

The programs are offered in Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Cochise Counties with an aim to empower young people to take action and be instigators of change toward positive health outcomes in their lives and communities.

We talked with Natalie Shepp, Program Coordinator, about the Arizona Healthy Living Ambassador Program, and the Tucson Village Farm Healthy Living Ambassadors Club.


What is the Tucson Village Farm 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors Club?

"The Tucson Village Farm 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors Club, located in Pima County, offers hands-on and engaging activities, monthly community meetings, projects that hone in on the youth’s own interests, and service learning opportunities to teach youth concepts that will inspire them to lead healthier lives.  This year’s projects will focus on topics such as Baking Healthier Sometimes Foods, Sustainable Urban Agriculture, Photography, Beekeeping and Outdoor Adventures.  All of the 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors are also offered the opportunity to train for and hike the Grand Canyon as a culminating activity at the end of the school year.  The trip provides the youth with the opportunity to focus on their fitness goals as well as explore the natural wonders of Arizona."

Why is this program important in Arizona?

"In Arizona, 40.7% of adults are overweight and 25.2% are obese. Additionally, 12.7% of Arizona children age 10-17 are overweight and 17.8% are obese. Only about one in four (28.5%) Arizona children age 6-17 are physically active every day. All these statistics and circumstances point to a tremendous need within this state to address health issues at multiple levels. Youth programming in general, and 4-H Youth Development programs in particular, are effective ways to reach the next generation of Arizonans and to prepare them to lead healthier lives.  In addition, the club provides youth with leadership and service learning opportunities that provide them with the ability to spread the messages they are learning through their project activities with their family, friends and community members."

What are some highlights to look forward to, this year?

"This year, we are looking forward to expanding our programming efforts to address social and emotional wellness as part of the overall health and wellness curriculum. Leaders and youth involved in the 4-H HLA Program and UA Campus Health will be attending a professional training on October 7 and 8, led by the Founder of Body Positive, a national non-profit organization that aims to educate high school and college students on how they can improve their personal body image.  The training will provide 35 people with licenses that will allow them to teach the concepts they have learned to a wider high school and college audience.  Youth that become involved at the high school level, and later choose to attend the University of Arizona, will have the opportunity to continue their Body Positive program efforts through UA Campus Health Services."

How is the Healthy Living Ambassadors program related to 4-H?  Do you have to be a member of 4-H to join?

"The Pima County 4-H HLA club is voluntary and is open to any teen (ages 12-18) who wishes to join.  The Santa Cruz, Cochise and Pinal clubs are offered to certain high school students within their counties. The HLA program is supported with grants provided to the National 4-H Council by United Healthcare and the Walmart Foundation.  Healthy Living Ambassador programs are required under the grant conditions and help 4-H achieve their Healthy Living program objectives."

How does the Healthy Living Ambassadors Program fulfill the mission of Cooperative Extension?

"This 4-H program provides youth with the knowledge they need to move forward into their adult lives on a path toward a healthier future.  They develop tools that they can put into action on topics such as nutritional science, culinary skills, gardening, sustainable agriculture and an appreciation for exploring the great outdoors.  Research-based Positive Youth Development techniques are utilized and adult volunteers act as leaders that inspire youth to move beyond their comfort zones while simultaneously exposing them to all the University has to offer, as well as a wide variety of future career options."

For more information about the Healthy Living Ambassadors in Tucson, reach out to Natalie Shepp.