Monday, April 26, 2010

Nutrition for Travel

The top tips for maintaining good nutrition while traveling with People to People Ambassador Programs are to stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet.

Stay Hydrated
Preventing dehydration both before and during travel is vital to maintain energy levels, overcome jet lag, and stay healthy while abroad. Not only does dehydration have a negative impact on body temperature, but it also affects heart function and the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. Poor fluid intake leads to fatigue and a delayed immune response, which greatly increases the chance of becoming ill while traveling.

1. Bring a water bottle
  • Student Ambassadors should be in the habit of carrying their water bottles with them wherever they go. This can begin at home weeks prior to travel, which will help ensure adequate hydration before the trip. Be sure to pack the empty bottle in your suitcase rather than carrying it on to avoid delays at airport security .
2. Drink extra on the plane
  • Aim for at least 1 cup of fluid for every hour of travel. Don’t be shy about asking the flight attendants for water. Many international flights have glasses of water already available in the kitchen/galley areas for passengers to help themselves. (This gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs, as well!)
3. Drink beyond thirst
  • Adolescents and children have a diminished thirst sensation. As a Student Ambassador, you will be very active during travel, which will also dull your thirst mechanism and require an increase in fluid intake.
  • In preparation for travel abroad, get in the habit of drinking fluids throughout the day, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
  • When taking fluid breaks, drink more than necessary!
4. Choose water
  • Drinks that contain high amounts of sugar can lead to further dehydration and/or intestinal problems.
  • Limit soda, coffee, and tea, as these act as diuretics and can worsen dehydration.
  • Your delegation manager will be a good source to determine if tap water in a specific country is suitable for drinking or if bottled water is the best option.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A variety of healthy foods, eaten consistently throughout the day, will help ensure adequate blood sugar levels, assist in overcoming jet lag, and increase immune health.

1. Have 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day
  • Spread snacks and meals evenly throughout the day to maintain energy levels.
  • Snacks should mostly consist of whole grains , fruits , and veggies, but they should also contain some protein to avoid sudden spikes in blood -sugar levels.
  • Portable travel food ideas: If it is available, grab an extra piece of fresh fruit at breakfast to eat as a snack later. There will be many opportunities to purchase snacks along the way. The best choices would include items such as trail mix with dried fruit, cereal, nuts , yogurt , milk , chocolate milk , string cheese , whole -grain crackers , peanut butter , granola bars , and WATER, WATER, WATER!
2. At each meal, choose at least one item from each of the following groups:
  • Whole -grain products
  • Milk products
  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Meat and protein alternatives (nuts, beans, eggs , etc.)
For more information, visit:

April Davis, RD, CD, CES

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Safety First on the Mountain and Abroad

In addition to my duties as the senior director of health and safety for People to People Ambassador Programs, I also deal with health and safety issues in my personal life. Every Friday night, I serve as a ski patroller at Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park. On the mountain, my role is to serve as a friendly host for mountain management, and to respond to any customer who has fallen or is injured. My first introduction to the ski patrol happened when I lived in Minnesota at the famous Buck Hill, where Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn got her start.
I bring up Buck Hill not because of the connection to Mrs. Vonn or the many other champions that learned to race on this small hill, but instead to share an important lesson I learned there. This lesson has had a direct impact on what I do today for People to People Ambassador Programs; more specifically, on how our teacher leaders are trained.

That's Not Your Name!

One night, while in the aid room of the Ski Patrol building at Buck Hill, I found myself in conversation with a medical doctor who also happened to be a patroller at Buck Hill. The patroller’s name tag was not the name I knew, and I had to know the reason behind his deception. I asked him, “Why do you have that name on your name tag? That’s not your name!” His answer was that in his daily life he is an orthopedic surgeon, but when he is on the mountain, his role is to perform as a ski patroller, not a doctor. The reason he changed his name tag and went by a completely different name while on duty was his way of reminding himself that he is only to perform the duties and skills a regular patroller is expected to perform.
At the time I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what he was saying; in fact, I found it a little strange. This man possessed the knowledge and skills to perform corrective surgery right on the hill, but deliberately chose not to. In hindsight, I should have known better, as this topic was covered as part of my initial training at Buck Hill, and it came up again when I went through the entire Outdoor Emergency Care Course (OEC) to become a patroller for Mount Spokane.

Leader Roles and Requirements
At People to People Ambassador Programs, our teacher leaders face a similar dilemma. Many of our leaders are school nurses or student counselors in their normal role as a teacher, but when they are on our program they are responsible for the health, safety, and guardianship of your child. In this role they are trained to only perform the duties expected and required of our leaders.

Each of our leaders completes a grueling application process to become a People to People Ambassador Programs teacher leader. This process includes the application process, letters of recommendation, and a background check that must be updated on a regular basis. They must also complete hands-on CPR training annually, a complex set of annual on-line training modules including competency testing, and in-person group training provided by our local area directors. These individuals are highly trained by our organization and bring to the role their countless years of experience in the classroom educating and developing young talent. But if a situation arises on program where a student needs medical attention, or some form of counseling, these teachers will contact our program office and the on-call team that stands ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support them and receive guidance on the next steps to be taken. They will most always be instructed to seek professional medical attention so that we know without a doubt how to treat the problem.

Much like the patroller at Buck Hill, a teacher leader may possess the skills to address the more serious issues that come up, but will instead stay within the definition of the role of a teacher leader and in that role, move to expediently transport the student into the professional medical emergency response system (EMS).

Our Policy

At People to People Ambassador Programs, we think this is the best method for handling serious situations, not a small scratch or bump. If something minor needs treatment, a leader will address that situation using one of the travel first-aid kits we provide to each primary leader. The larger situations I am referring to are highly unlikely, yet more serious situations where we want a medical professional’s opinion. Once in the EMS system, we can then leverage our relationship with On-Call International. They provide our organization with interpreters who connect a doctor on the On-Call staff with the physician treating the student abroad. This way, we get accurate and reliable information in a timely manner so that we can keep the family back home informed while ensuring the student is in safe hands.

I’m not saying that any of our teacher leaders has changed his or her name while on program. I’m merely using a rather extreme example to convey my point: our teacher leaders stand ready to respond to any situation. They are highly trained, and in the unlikely event that a serious situation arises, they know to perform to the level required of a teacher leader, and to quickly, calmly, and efficiently transport any student to a medical facility if there is any doubt about the student’s condition.

Until next time, wishing you safe and happy travels!