Youth Development Task Force presented with Rural Health Program award

November 10, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Leadership of the Youth Development Task Force (YDTF) of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition (LCHIC) received the 2018 Rural Health Program of the Year Award, presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) at a ceremony on Nov. 9 at the Lycoming County Courthouse in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The award was presented immediately preceding Rural Health Week in Pennsylvania, Nov. 12-16, by Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State. Rural Health Week encompasses Nov. 15, which is National Rural Health Day, established in 2011 by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

The Rural Health Program of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary health program that addresses an identified need in a rural community; uses unique, creative and innovative approaches; ensures access to the community it serves; includes statewide resources as part of the planning and evaluation process; and demonstrates a significant benefit to the target population.

The nomination, submitted by Beth McMahon, professor of health science at Lock Haven University, lauded the YDTF as being a remarkable example of the power of teamwork to identify and respond to youth risk and protective factors, specifically substance abuse and mental health issues in Lycoming County. 

McMahon noted this group of engaged youth, representing eight school districts and the parochial system, has enjoyed remarkable involvement and support from students, school counselors, and administrators; health and human service agencies and organizations; law enforcement; and the business community. Including these key stakeholders has ensured a comprehensive approach in planning and evaluating community health improvement for this target population for the past 20 years.

The YDTF is one of the five issue-driven task forces of LCHIC which was formed in 1994 as a group of representatives of entities concerned with issues impacting the general health and well-being of the citizens of Lycoming County. LCHIC’s mission is to improve the overall health status of Lycoming County by assessing the needs and facilitation of a response to priority health, wellness, and safety issues through a collaborative, data and community-driven process.

Students create and drive the agenda and are crucial in the planning and execution of YDTF's efforts. Students assist in grant writing and present their achievements at national and state conferences, including the annual Students Against Drunk Driving and the Pennsylvania Community and Public Health, the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce conferences. The YDTF was awarded a 2018 Pennsylvania Attorney General's Community Drug Prevention grant to expand their mass media campaign and programing to reduce risk factors and build protective factors in their population.

Participating schools pooled state Communities in Schools funding through the YDTF to support a highly visual ‘branding’ of the coordinated effort to stage a social norming/marketing event in each school that was customized to the school's population. Messages developed by the YDTF from Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) data designed to challenge the misperception that many have of high levels of substance use among high school students. Billboards, public service announcements, and school announcements at events promote the positive peer pressure that highlight that most youth do not use drugs.

Lock Haven University conducts youth focus groups to respond to and provide insight on the most current PAYS data results. Based on data from the 2015 and 2017 PAYS reports, the YDTF implemented a student-based program called “Find Your Worth,” which has shown great success in reaching a large number of students and key stakeholders. This mass media campaign focuses on school and community resources for prosocial involvement and addresses the stigma about mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts. 

PORH, a partnership between the U.S. Federal Government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State, was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live. Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 11, 2018