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New club addresses major health issues in America

| Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Junior Jean Llenos said he wanted to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public. So when he learned that The Health Guardians of America was looking to found a chapter at Notre Dame, he submitted an application to be the club’s founding president.

“Science is very important,” he said. “We need people who make scientific breakthroughs. They save lives, but for me personally, [medicine] has been a lot more about the people because [one of] the biggest problems in medicine today, among many other things, is that we have such a disconnect between what the scientific community knows is good for people and how that information is given to the public.”

The Health Guardians of America is a national organization originally founded in California that aims to address America’s health issues, with a particular focus on heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Llenos said the organization’s founder reaches out to universities’ pre-health programs and invites students to apply to found a chapter.

“Everything that we do is coordinated between the chapters, and then the results of all the chapters are kind of compiled in order to see what works on a really large scale,” Llenos said. “So this is about implementing very scalable and measurable interventions for health on a global scale”.

Senior Meghan Cohoon, the club’s vice president of external relations, said she was drawn to the club because she enjoys teaching people about how their lifestyles can impact their health.

“I’ve always had a profound interest in and passion for teaching people that their lifestyle choices have effects on their resulting health conditions and that making healthier changes can often be more effective in addressing one’s well-being than necessarily taking a plethora of medications, [though] obviously, not in all cases,” she said in an email.

As one of its main initiatives, the club is implementing a program, “FitlifeFlow,” to incentivize exercise, Cohoon said. The program is part of a nationwide initiative and allows students to earn money by consistently exercising.

“As a college student, I know how easy it can be to push one’s health and fitness to the back burner as academics take over our lives,” she said. “Yet, with our program, ‘FitlifeFlow,’ we hope to help students find a better balance between academia, health, fitness and [maintaining] a social life.”

One of the club’s other initiatives will focus on nutrition and healthier options in the dining halls, Llenos said.

“Looking forward, one of the things I personally want to do while I’m president is get more of an interaction between the student body and the dining halls,” he said. “ … Exercise is important, but diet is 100 times more important when it comes to regulating health than exercise is.”

The organization is unique in that it does not have a general membership, Llenos said, and each member is involved with a specific project. Students must submit a resume and undergo an interview process in order to join the organization.

“If you’re a member of the club, you’re assigned a role,” he said. “ … If you’re part of the club, you will have a lot more independence and a lot more direct impact on something, especially in a relatively quicker amount of time than you would with another club.”

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