Donors Aid Research for Healthier Students

Timothy A. Sanborn, MD

Philanthropic support to NorthShore’s Cardiovascular Institute (CVI) is driving research on the success of programs to decrease smoking by high school students and improve the physical fitness and reduce consumption of sugary beverages by students of all ages.

NorthShore cardiologist Timothy A. Sanborn, MD, said continued philanthropic support from NorthShore donors has enabled the success of his research to date. “I'm now preparing an application for an American Heart Association Community Innovation Grant based on the preliminary research work that was supported by charitable giving.”

Dr. Sanborn worked with the Evanston Health Advisory Council to successfully lobby in raising the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 in Evanston, the first community in the Midwest to do so. In making the case for the law to change, Dr. Sanborn cited statistics from Needham, Mass., a city that saw a dramatic decline in smoking among high school students after the age to purchase tobacco products was raised to 21 in 2005.  

Dr. Sanborn recently wrote a letter to the commentary page of the Chicago Tribune urging Chicago and surrounding communities to pass the initiative. He is now meeting with leaders from the towns of Skokie, Oak Park and Highland Park to follow suit, hoping the law will someday be statewide. 

“By raising the age to purchase tobacco products, we’re hoping to discourage young adults from developing an addiction to this dangerous habit,” he said. The short-term consequences of teen smoking include respiratory effects, addiction to nicotine and the associated risk of other drug use. In adults, cigarette smoking causes heart disease and stroke and increases the risk of lung cancer.

To improve heart health at a young age, Dr. Sanborn is also working with a State Board of Education Task Force to improve physical fitness in all schools in Illinois. Students are learning about the importance of flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and aerobic capacity so they can develop healthy lifestyles at a young age and prevent obesity. 

Another pilot program Dr. Sanborn is involved in with pediatrician Lynn Chehab, MD, is at Willard Elementary School in Evanston, where students are being taught about the dangers to health from consuming sweetened beverages, which studies show is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

In tandem with educational programming, NorthShore purchased two water fountains for the school and water bottles for the students. “We've seen a decrease of sugar consumption since we started, and now we’re analyzing that data, thanks to support from NorthShore’s generous donors,” said Dr. Sanborn.

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