199223 Healthy Times: Promoting health literacy through student-written newspapers

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 9:10 AM

Marian Uhlman, BA , The Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA
Nancy Erickson, MSN, MaED , Highland Park Elementary School, Upper Darby, PA
Moriah Zimmerman, MPH , The Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA
Karen Fortuna, MSW , The Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA
Allison Karpyn, PhD , The Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA
Background: The Healthy Times program supports school health newspapers written and illustrated by students in grades 3 to 8. Healthy Times expanded to 10 elementary schools in the Philadelphia region during 2007-2008. Topics include healthy snacking, exercise, hand-washing, stress management, sleep and smoking dangers.

Purpose: The program seeks to increase health knowledge and promote healthy lifestyles within school communities.

Significance: Federal data suggest most elementary school students receive insufficient school-based health education instruction. Healthy Times is an innovative model to provide health education while meeting concurrent academic objectives.

Methodology: The content of publications produced by 10 participating schools in 2007-2008 was analyzed using the performance indicators for the eight National Health Education Standards. Quantitative and qualitative survey data were collected to assess readership and health knowledge from third and fourth graders, their teachers and parents.

Results: The preliminary health education analyses of 29 issues published from 2007-2008 found six school newspapers addressed all eight standards, three addressed seven, and one addressed five in a single two-page issue. Among the 452 students who responded to the survey, the majority (68%) reported they read the paper and, of those, 65 percent said they enjoyed it. Among surveyed parents who read the paper, two-thirds reported it had a positive impact on their child's eating habits or attitudes. Most teachers (89%) discussed the newspaper content in their classrooms.

Conclusions: Responses suggest high levels of readership, recommendation to others, and a general belief that Healthy Times has a positive impact on children's health attitudes.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how Healthy Times program teaches health literacy. 2. Discuss how the program is structured. 3. Describe program's potential to enhance school health education curriculum.

Keywords: Health Literacy, School Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I created with a second grade teacher the Healthy Times program in 2003 and, since 2006, have piloted it for The Food Trust as the project director. I've launched the program in a total of 14 schools and after-school programs. We expect to distribute newspapers in at least 11 schools this spring, reaching about 6,000 students and their families. I spent nearly 30 years as a journalist at The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Albuquerque Tribune and the Anniston (AL) Star. For many of those years, my primary subject area was health and medical reporting. I was a finalist in national reporting for a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, among other honors. The nominated series, which I co-wrote,was reprinted as a book, Making Medicine, Making Money, in 1993. I wrote Covering Obesity, A Guide for Reporters, published in 2007, for the Association of Health Care Journalists. I graduated magna cum laude from Duke University and attended the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, N.Z., as a post graduate in journalism on a Rotary Fellowship.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.