LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Scouting Public Health

Boy Scouts Public Health Badge

Thirty-three boy scouts from troops in Louisiana and Mississippi were on their feet trying to find a hip hop beat on a recent Saturday morning at LSU Health New Orleans. They were participating in an interactive demonstration of public health. Dancing to Tightrope to compare their resting heart rates with their exercising heart rates was but one activity of the day devoted to meeting requirements of the Public Health Merit Badge.

“The instruction for the Boy Scouts Public Health Merit Badge doesn’t get offered very often in Louisiana,” notes Donna Williams, DrPH, Associate Dean of Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health.

But, with a School of Public Health, a Boy Scout leader who works there, a team of enthusiastic graduate students and the Dean’s support, all of the elements aligned.

“As a Boy Scout leader, I’ve wanted to work with the faculty here at the School to develop a Public Health Merit Badge program to teach the scouts for a while,” says Carl Kluttz, LSU Health IT Analyst IV. “Dr. Williams brought the idea to Dean Smith, and we moved forward.”

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LSU Health New Orleans Public Health Student Government Association leaders Matthew Spence, Stephen Patin, John Person, Rachel Mayer, Kristin Cornwell, Alexandra Caillouet, Samantha Spiers, Helena Ochoa and Lisa Staples worked with Kluttz to organize the day following the Public Health Merit Badge guidelines. They taught the scouts about diseases, their causes, risk factors, transmission and preventive steps. Hands-on activities effectively demonstrated the results of poor lifestyle choices and living conditions. Trying to suck air through small and smaller straws, along with a pair of inflatable lungs drove home some of the health effects of smoking. The youngsters experienced difficulty doing ordinary activities under the influence of alcohol impairment simulation goggles, saw germs left behind by improper handwashing technique glowing on their hands, and learned about testing for lead in paint. An inflatable colon visualized colon cancer, polyps, Crohn’s Disease and Diverticulosis. The LSU Health students taught the boys all about public health and helped them complete all but one of the components of the badge.
Boy Scouts Public Health Badge

Boy Scouts Public Health Badge

The scouts and their parents found a lot of value in the event. These scouts will earn a badge rare for our area. And at least one parent considered a more long-term benefit. “This is a great opportunity for students to work with kids and expose them to the college campus.”

“I felt this was a win-win situation for both the Boy Scouts and the School of Public Health,” says Kluttz. “The Boy Scouts learned an appreciation and the importance of Public Health while our students participated in a community outreach program to share their knowledge on the subject.”

This was not a one-time event. Williams and Kluttz are already planning for the future–in the near- and long-term. Kluttz is scheduling a field trip to a wastewater or mosquito abatement facility to complete the badge requirements for this group. “I would also like to bring some of our Master of Public Health students to Boy Scout Winter Camp to teach the Merit Badge in the near future.”

And Williams is looking to next year. “By making this an annual event, our graduate students are able to share some of what they have learned, provide a service to our community and hopefully inspire some future public health leaders.”