We empower young people with obesity through themselves, their community, and society.
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Date You Started Your Project Started
June 1, 2018
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Adolescent obesity is a rising concern in the nation because youths with obesity are more likely to grow up to suffer from obesity. We are living during a time when the life expectancy of children is lower than that of their parents. Weight management clinics do a wonderful job educating and offering resources to live healthy lifestyles, but implementing lessons learned within clinic walls can be difficult when faced with environmental stressors.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Our mission is to empower young people with obesity through themselves, their community, and society. The organization focuses on three main areas of programming to reach these goals: socials, a 5K, and policy-based advocacy.
Socials are monthly meetings that will focus on discussions between patients. Socials programming will consist of both adolescent weight loss surgery patients and non-adolescent weight loss surgery patients. These meetings are intended to empower young adults to feel confident making healthy decisions and will include building life skills involving: stress management, decision making, communication, and mindfulness.
The 5K will occur annually, and is intended to encourage community involvement through raising money for the Healthy Lifestyles Clinic. It also educates and informs the public by raising awareness of adolescent obesity.
Policy-based advocacy will be an on-going project that will be facilitated through the use of forums made available on our website, where clinicians, families and patients can add their feedback and policy suggestions. Each year, OCEANS will choose two policies from these suggestions to advocate change each year.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
When I was 16, I visited Duke Healthy Lifestyles clinic as a patient, eventually becoming the second adolescent to undergo weight loss surgery through the clinic. During my experience as a bariatric patient, I had many resources from clinicians but all I wanted was to talk to someone who had undergone the same process.
Adolescent weight loss surgery was uncommon when I underwent gastric bypass. My experience after surgery was trial and error. I found myself on a cycle of weight loss and weight gain. I thought if I had the support of other teens experiencing the stresses of obesity I could have been more successful.
Four years later, I reached out to the founder of the program, Dr. Armstrong, who offered me a summer internship. There, I expressed my ideas and worked with clinicians to develop a comprehensive program that considers the clinic’s role and embraces personal experiences.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
When a healthcare provider gets involved with OCEANS, we give them access to the curriculum so that they may review it and recommend patients to the program. Additionally, we provide pediatric weight management clinics with flyers that have our QR codes on them. Patients simply scan the code, and then register with their contact information. We then reach out to the individual via email to inform them about our program and offer a free t shirt. Patients then have the opportunity to participate in the online socials that happen once a month. We are currently developing an app that has online video chat rooms where the socials will be held. The reason we make our program accessible online is because access to pediatric weight management is limited in the US. There are only 40 clinics nationwide. Therefore, we want to provide affordable and accessible support to adolescents with obesity.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
No organizations are specifically doing what we do through OCEANS. There are organizations working to fight childhood and adult obesity such as as Actions For Healthy Kids and Obesity Action Coalition; however, OCEANS is targeting teens because it is an age group commonly overlooked by health organizations. We bring together a community of teens who support each other through the hardships of obesity in a way that people of other age groups cannot. We also want to share our own experiences with weight struggles and be supportive figures in teens’ paths to a healthier lifestyle.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
OCEANS has made a significant impact on Obesity Action Coalition (OAC). OAC is the largest nonprofit for individuals living with obesity. With the help of OCEANS, OAC has begun discussions to target their program to include teens with obesity. At their national conference, OAC invited us to set up a table in their exhibit hall. There we initiated the conversation about advocacy and support for teens navigating the difficulties of obesity. An example of the impact we’ve had on an individual level happened at the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America’s Conference. Here, a student from the University of Florida approached our table seeking support. She told us that she had undergone weight loss surgery as a teenager, but struggled to find continued support after surgery. This lack of accessible resources for teens with obesity is a pressing issue that we have initiated a solution for.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Our primary goal is to create an app that will make our socials easily accessible to all participants. This app will include push notifications that alert members that a social is beginning. When they open the app, members will be directed to a chat room with three other teens. Here, teens will be able to offer support through shared experience. We are also launching a qualitative research project to gain feedback on our curriculum from pediatric weight management clinics around the nation. After applying the feedback we receive, we hope to reach out to these clinics in the spring and inquire about a formal partnership. We are currently filing to become a nonprofit, which will prove our legitimacy to potential partners and donors.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100