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K-State Today

October 12, 2016

Researchers pursue programing that embraces aging with USDA grant

Submitted by Anne Rubash

Erin Yelland

Erin Yelland, assistant professor and extension specialist in the School of Family Studies and Human Services, was recently awarded a $356,257 Rural Health and Safety Education grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

This grant is one of four awarded in the United States and will be used to fund the Keys to Embracing Aging extension program, which will educate participants about 12 healthy lifestyle behaviors that positively influence overall well-being and longevity.

The program will take place over 12 months, with one "key" featured each month, and will include engaging and challenging activities that encourage healthful living. The 12 keys are a positive attitude, eating smart and healthy, physical activity, brain activity, social activity, tuning in to the times, safety, knowing your health numbers, stress management, financial affairs, sleep and taking time for yourself. 

The program will be delivered by extension agents in 42 rural counties across Kansas and Kentucky. Yelland will oversee the entire program and implementation in 22 Kansas counties, while Amy Hosier, assistant professor and state specialist in family life education at the University of Kentucky, will oversee the implementation in rural Kentucky.

Through this grant, Yelland hopes to educate adults on the connection between the decisions that individuals and families make regarding their health and safety throughout their lifespan and their overall well-being and ability to age well. Kansans and Kentuckians still struggle with healthful and safe decision-making that contributes to their health-related quality and duration of life.

Kansans are an unexceptional No. 26 in national rankings for overall health, have poor chronic disease rates, and pervasive negative, yet modifiable, health and safety behaviors. According to Yelland, rural Kansans are in desperate need of preventative education and encouragement to make healthful and safe decisions throughout their lifespan. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has disseminated a call to action for all Kansans to contribute to a healthier, more productive state.

In Kentucky, the outlook is worse, Yelland said. Kentucky ranks No. 44 for overall health and the third highest adult obesity rate in the nation. For these reasons, Kentucky has released a plan for coordinated chronic disease prevention and health promotion in which coordinated efforts to educate Kentuckians on methods of improving the health-related quality and duration of an individual's life is highly valued and deemed necessary, she said.

"This, along with Kansas' call to action, situates our states as prime target audiences for cooperative extension to provide health and safety related educational intervention through an evidence-based curriculum, Keys to Embracing Aging," Yelland said. 

"Healthy lifestyles that promote overall well-being, optimal aging and extended longevity are a strong passion of mine and my colleagues," she said. "As creators of this program, we have been thrilled with the success we've had thus far. We are excited to implement this program in a new, and more effective way in order to get Kansans and Kentuckians motivated to take charge of their health and futures."