This Work Matters
If you could name the most vital public health need facing our population, what would it be?
Perhaps your answer would be preventing COVID-19, although in the U.S. the pandemic outlook is improving as the number of infections declines dramatically. The novel coronavirus remains a serious concern, yet its status as an emergency-level issue is now debatable. You might also think about answering with heart disease, diabetes, or cancer—all of which are serious health problems to solve and prevent, but not considered crises.
But the answer, according to the experts I recently spoke with at Allina Health (Minnesota’s largest nonprofit health system) is not any of the above. The biggest public health need right now is mental health services for youth.
That’s right. Caring for the mental health of our nation’s children is the TOP public health priority, according to the researchers at Allina.
I know I shouldn’t have been surprised by this—and in a way, I wasn’t—but hearing it directly from medical experts was still earth-shattering to my core. Not only that, but given that the most urgent public health need they predict NEXT is youth substance use and abuse, I couldn’t help but be gobsmacked (like I think that word was INVENTED for feelings like this!). The number-one public health priorities for now and for the future center around children, not adults. Our kids are in crisis and they need us.
This may be mind-bending information for you too—and I hope it will also be fuel for your fire as a studio owner. In dance, I believe we are truly standing in the gap for thousands of children who NEED this activity to support their mental health; kids who need to move their bodies, form bonds with trusted adults, develop friendships, build confidence in themselves, and so much more.
What you’re doing today is more essential than it’s ever been, and now is the time to shout it from every rooftop! Make sure your community knows about the positive effects dance can have on kids’ lives. YOU are offering a service that every child can take advantage of to build healthy habits, stay resilient, and feel better about themselves. Kids need activity AND activities. They need connection. They need grown-ups all around them to cheer them on, and hold them to high standards. Whether you say this through advertising, social media, blog posts, or press releases, it is NEWSWORTHY!
I hope this is career-affirming information for you—it certainly is for me. What dance studios are doing is beyond steps and training; it’s serving the public health needs of our youth. What studio owners are doing is supplying these opportunities for growth and learning and support. What teachers are doing can literally be a lifeline for kids today and in the future.
I’ve always believed in the transformative power of dance, and I’ve said it here on this blog many times. THIS is a time when I think that transformative power can save lives. Dance can be a child’s safe place to fall; the place where they can express their feelings and filter out their stress and anxiety. This work we are doing MATTERS. And it matters in ways we are just now uncovering as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
Please be encouraged to keep doing what you’re doing, and to hold out hope that thanks to dance, the obstacles your students experience will be surmountable … that thanks to dance, they can overcome any challenge, whether that challenge comes from life or from within.
Thank you for lifting up our youth and being part of the solution they need to be physically AND mentally strong. You’re doing life-changing work. Keep it up. <3
P.S. To learn about Allina Health’s initiative for supporting athletes’ mental health, visit Change to Chill. It’s an awesome resource for your studio!