The Maryland Rural Health Association awarded the Worcester County Public Schools’ health literacy program “Outstanding Maryland Rural Health Program.” The health literacy program was developed in a partnership between the school system, Atlantic General Hospital, and the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Center for Health Literacy.
The award committee selected the health literacy program in southeastern Maryland for its efforts to tackle health issues in the classroom at a young age, as reported in Delmarva News. Initiated as a pilot program for Ocean City Elementary School second grade students in the 2013-14 school year, the health literacy program has expanded to reach all first through fifth grade students in Worcester County.
“Examples of what is being taught to the students include germs and how to talk to doctors for first-graders, healthcare and exercise for third-graders and mental health in fifth grade. Nutrition is a central theme in all grade levels,” according to the Delmarva News report.
“We designed the Worcester County School health literacy program to enable children to better understand health information and to be able to advocate for themselves on issues related to health,” said Dr. Linda Aldoory, Principal Investigator on the project and former director of the Center for Health Literacy. Dr. Aldoory, who is currently Associate Professor in UMD’s Department of Communication, will continue to lead the project over the next year.
The program helps teachers work health literacy concepts into existing lessons. The curriculum is designed to increase student capacity as empowered consumers of health information and services, so that students learn health lessons they can bring home to their families and into the wider community. The Center for Health Literacy’s research team, which not only included Dr. Aldoory but also doctoral and masters students in Public Health, conducted pre and post assessments of health knowledge, perceived self-efficacy and levels of health literacy amongst students.
The Worcester County program will receive the Outstanding Maryland Rural Health Program award on October 29, at the 2015 Maryland Rural Health Conference in Ocean City, MD.