Difference Makers: NJ teen starts website to dispel health misinformation

Valeri Guevarra
Valeri Guevarra interviewed by WCBS 880's Sean Adams in New Jersey. Photo credit Sean Adams

WYCKOFF, N.J. (WCBS 880) — A New Jersey teenager has created her own website to set the record straight when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.

Ove a year ago, Indian Hills High School junior Valeri Guevarra made a New Year’s resolution to be healthier. To start her journey, she consulted the internet, where she found a lot of questionable advice.

“I realize how much misinformation there was out there, especially on social media which teens use a lot,” she tells WBCS 880’s Sean Adams. “It was like, they were very susceptible to all the misinformation out there, whether it be about COVID-19 or just be about general like wellbeing and health.

The teen says she found plenty of fad diets with promises that sounded too good to be true.

“Getting abs in two weeks…for some people that could be possible but, for a lot of normal or average people it's not,” she said.

To fight the misinformation out there, she decided to curate her own website with useful information for other teens like herself.

“I wanted to create a reliable platform for teens to go to for health and it's kind of like made for teens by teens so it's kind of in a language they understand. It's reliable and it's actually interesting because… we use so much so many different types of content,” Guevarra explains.

She created TeenHealth101.org, a site that explores a variety of health topics, from fitness and nutrition to mental health, for teenagers.

Guevarra has recruited other teens to help fight the misinformation as well, and all work to create podcasts, videos, blog posts and other forms of content related to staying healthy as a teenager.

“Our staff is from over 17 different countries, they're kind of divided into content creators – so people who actually create digital content – and then ambassadors who help market and expand the platform,” the 16-year-old said. “They're all volunteers. It's a nonprofit platform so everyone volunteers to do all these things.”

But the information isn’t without expertise. The teens regularly speak with doctors and other specialists to provide the best advice.

“We actually do Zoom webinars, which is actually a really great thing and we invite medical professionals to talk [and] answer questions. We also invite medical students, so if someone's interested in a career in the health field, we also have webinars for that,” Guevarra said.

She explains that the most popular topic that teens visiting their site are searching for is mental health advice.

“Everyone really enjoys especially the mental health content and the ‘Fact Versus Myth Friday,’” she said. “It's really funny to see people's reactions.”

While Guevarra is still quite young, and has several years of school ahead of her, she says she is already setting her sights on a career in health care.

“Based on the feedback we do see, I'm really proud that I've made a difference in some people's lives,” she tells Adams.

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