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Adding HOPE to Kidfest

By Joe Higgins | Apr 16, 2018

While the 31 st Annual Kidfest featured field games, magic, face painting, an obstacle course, music and dancing, Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions also offered HOPE.

Athens HOPE (Halting Opioid abuse through Prevention and Education) is a partnership founded by the college, the Athens City-Council Health Department and OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital and includes a number of area educators, health professionals and local leaders. The group is committed to preventing opioid abuse and in that vein, brought an interesting game and message to Kidfest on Saturday, April 7 at Ohio University’s Walter Fieldhouse.

Faced with similar looking images, parents and children worked to differentiate candy from pills — not always an easy task.

“Athens HOPE would like to spread awareness along the lifespan about the risks of opioid and other substance abuse,” said Rebecca Robison-Miller, director of College and Community Partnerships for CHSP and chair of Athens HOPE. “What’s the message for younger kids as well as older adults? Anyone can be at risk. We decided for this age group to talk to kids about how easy it is to misidentify medications, how dangerous those medicines can be and making good decisions around that.”

According to Athens HOPE, good decision-making includes children asking an adult before eating anything, since candy and medicine can often look alike.

“We had a lot of parents who said they never realized how similar those are,” said Robison-Miller.

Gummy vitamins are designed to look like gummy bears and other gummy candies. While a child can consume a handful of gummy candies, doing so with gummy vitamins can cause illness. Blue Gatorade can look very similar to Windex, coated chocolate candies can look much like ibuprofen and acetaminophen and dishwasher packs can appear as marshmallows.

Heather Gunn, of Nelsonville, watched as her children Alyasia and Kleyeon played the game. The 9- and 8-year-old, respectively, did very well telling the difference between pictures of candy and pills, only getting stumped once or twice.

“I always tell them to make sure they ask me before they eat anything,” said Gunn. “If anyone gives them anything, I always tell them to let me see it first.”

Gunn said that in addition to the conversations at home, her children have had similar discussions in school and through the Athens County D.A.R.E. program.

This was the first community event centered on children for Athens HOPE and Robison-Miller was pleased with the response.

“I think the message was well received,” she said. “The kids and parents were both engaged with the game and many parents said that the similarities between candy and medicine was something they hadn’t really thought about. Receiving feedback that we helped spread awareness to both children and adults motivates us to keep developing our messaging and educational efforts.”