Getting an Early Start on Health Literacy

Philanthropy & Volunteerism
Jan 20, 2016 8:35 AM ET

Today’s students trust their peers. So we partnered with the Philadelphia area’s Healthy NewsWorks, an organization founded more than a decade ago by a second grade teacher and former Philadelphia Inquirer health reporter Marian Uhlman. Healthy NewsWorks partners with elementary and middle schools to teach children health literacy while also developing their leadership, critical thinking and communications skills through journalism.

As part of our partnership with Healthy NewsWorks, our lab experts visited local schools to participate in ‘media interviews’ and ‘press conferences’ with the young health reporters, and we hosted student journalists at our lab in Horsham. After putting on goggles, gloves and lab coats, third and fourth graders met medical and other professionals, and learned firsthand how specimens are collected, transported, tested and interpreted. They also learned how the results they yield give your doctor insights to help you stay well, or, if you’re sick, get better.

Fifteen schools in Philadelphia, Norristown, and Upper Darby participated in the program. Some 300 students served as health reporters, producing 43 health-focused newspapers for their schools, distributed to 6,500 students as well as two additional community papers. Program evaluations since 2007 have consistently found that students who participate in the program become more health-conscious, develop writing and research skills, and gain confidence and pride. In addition to Quest, Healthy NewsWorks is also supported by Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership, Einstein Healthcare Network, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Roxborough Memorial Hospital, Independence Blue Cross, University of Pennsylvania, and Drexel University School of Public Health, among others. We’ve further strengthened our partnership with Healthy NewsWorks in 2015 through the local leadership of our QuestCares volunteer network.

We’re also piloting with Junior Achievement of New Jersey in support of JA Biztown, a virtual city students “visit” to experience real-world application of financial literacy skills learned in the classroom. Because health and healthcare literacy are integral to financial literacy, students at JA Biztown will learn about health and how healthcare works, and have the opportunity to role play careers like CEO, medical director, and lab technician. JA currently reaches 4.5 million students across the country, and JANJ BizTown expects to reach 3,000 children in 2015, 6,000 in 2016, and is targeting 10,000 students reached for 2017.