Candor's impact healthy as ever on 50th birthday

Candor Health Education is marking a milestone this year.

Exactly a half-century ago, the organization’s precursor, the Robert Crown Center for Health Education, moved into 21 Salt Creek Lane in Hinsdale, becoming the nation’s first fully independent health education center.

According to the agency’s website, the moniker was a tribute to the Robert Crown Family, who had provided funding for the groundbreaking endeavor.

The agency’s actual incarnation dates back to 1958 as the Hinsdale Health Museum, a locally organized resource to enrich the community’s health education. The 1960s ushered in a new social and political climate shaped by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights protests and the sexual revolution’s focus on liberating sexuality as a normal physical and emotional part of human existence. However sexually transmitted disease and unplanned pregnancy among young people also were becoming more prevalent.

To provide a broader and more intensive style of health education that could impact the health of youth in metropolitan Chicago, a larger space was needed to deliver a comprehensive exploration of the reproductive system to visiting students. Addressing sexual health in public schools certainly faced resistance early on, but most welcomed the more thorough and scientific approach to reproductive health education.

The organization implemented its first substance abuse prevention program in 1972, first focusing its curriculum on brain development and the science of addiction.

The program continued to evolve over the years, always informed by prevailing neurology research. In response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the agency rolled out AIDS prevention programming, combating hysteria with science and dispelling myths associated with the disease.

Untold numbers of area schoolchildren visited the center on field trips over the decades, making Valeda, the anatomical transparent woman, a local icon. By 1987, its health educators were traveling to schools in eight different counties to deliver their expertise in the classroom. Between 1983 and 1993 during America’s personal fitness boom, the organization more than doubled its impact, providing health education to approximately 215,000 students each year.

In 2001, the organization opened a satellite center in Chicago’s Homan Square neighborhood to bring programs to an under-served population free of charge. An obesity prevention program and a Science Behind Drugs curriculum were launched in response to the misuse and abuse of opioid pain pills as well as an online program addressing the heroin epidemic that enabled a access to a much larger audience.

In 2017 the Robert Crown Center shifted entirely to an in-school model, leaving behind the Salt Creek Lane building and rebranding in 2020 as Candor Health Education. Just about the same time, the organization served its 6 millionth student. It had transformed from a small local health museum to a national outreach education provider.

As the agency turns 50, Candor also celebrates a just concluded 2023 in which 3,051 health education programs were delivered — in person or online — to 673 schools across 14 Illinois counties as well as in New York and Wisconsin, per its annual report. Essential health topics were taught to 86,884 students, 23 percent more than in 2022.

Hinsdale’s celebrates with you, marveling at your enduring mission to help young people be the healthiest version of themselves.