Who We Are/What We Do
Established in 1999 by the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) empowers Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by reducing and preventing youth tobacco use, substance use and childhood obesity. VFHY receives no taxpayer funds. Its budget comes from an 8.5% share of Virginia’s annual payments from the nation’s major tobacco manufacturers through the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).
We Get Results
Since we began working with youth in 2001, the number of high school and middle school students who smoke in Virginia has been cut by nearly 80 percent!
Tobacco Use Prevention
Tobacco use kills more Americans every year than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, illegal drugs and fires combined. More than 80 percent of adult smokers started before age 18, usually as young as 13 or 14. And research shows that adolescents can become addicted to nicotine in as little as a few weeks by taking just a few puffs on a cigarette every other day.
VFHY takes a comprehensive approach to preventing and reducing youth tobacco use. Our classroom-based prevention programs reach about 50,000 children statewide in public schools, preschools, houses of faith, community centers and after-school programs. Our grants employ about 200 positions per year across the Commonwealth, mostly instructors and youth workers.
Additionally, our award-winning, multimedia “Y do u think” campaign reaches more than 500,000 children statewide each year with prevention messages through TV and radio commercials and online content.
VFHY’s Y Street teen volunteer group was named the top youth advocacy group in the nation for tobacco-use prevention. Our teen volunteers have testified before the FDA and have appeared at events with top government officials including the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and Virginia’s Governor.
One in three children in Virginia is obese or overweight. This can lead to serious, lifelong health problems like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, conditions that until recently were almost exclusively limited to adults. In fact, this generation of children may be the first in U.S. history to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.
VFHY is addressing childhood obesity in a variety of ways, including funding and training Healthy Communities Action Teams. Located across the state, these childhood obesity prevention coalitions work on the local level to improve access to healthy foods and to increase opportunities for physical activity.
Every January, VFHY sponsors statewide Virginia Healthy Youth Day celebrations to promote healthy lifestyles for Virginia’s young people. VFHY also hosts Virginia’s biennial Weight of the State childhood obesity prevention conference, bringing top experts to engage state and local prevention, education and medical professionals.