Forest Lake School Board Member Kathy Bystrom has been recognized by the Minnesota Department of Health for promoting healthy living in children and teens.
She received the award on Sept. 25 at Cragun’s in Brainerd at the Community Health Conference kickoff event.
Bystrom, Community Health Outreach Coordinator for Fairview Lakes Medical Center, has led initiatives to improve the health and safety of children, including reducing drug use and preventing suicide.
“Kathy is a tireless advocate when it comes to obesity, mental health, chemical health, adolescent depression, suicide and youth issues,” said Jean Streetar of the Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment.
Streetar nominated Bystrom for the award.
Bystrom has been an active leader of the local MOST of Us campaign, which challenges the belief that drug and alcohol use is the norm. On the assumption that youth are more likely to drink if they think their peers do, the program uses survey data to correct misperceptions and to promote positive attitudes among students.
“The data paints a clear picture,” Bystrom said. “Contrary to what we may think or what the media portray, most youth are making healthy choices regarding drugs and alcohol. This is notable and worthy of our attention — it’s time to turn down the volume on counterproductive messages that try to scare kids into doing the right thing, and to focus on the facts.”
A survey of Forest Lake Area High School students showed that 3 out of 4 of them do not drink alcohol in a typical month (see page 4).
Bystrom is chair of the Forest Lake Area Partnership for Families and a member of both the Suicide Prevention Collaborative and the Chisago County Mental Wellness Initiative. She previously served as Youth Development Coordinator for Forest Lake Area Schools, and has been a member of the Forest Lake School Board since 2010.
She has worked with Washington County to implement the Statewide Health Improvement Program, has been a local coordinator for the Teen Health Fund and has participated on the Forest Lake Area Healthy Community Initiative.
“This award does not belong to me alone,” Bystrom said. “I work with incredible individuals from all sectors of the community who share my passion for prevention. The vision for a safe and healthy community, especially for our children and youth, is a shared vision.”