204305 Teaching human genetics in classrooms to increase students' health literacy

Monday, November 9, 2009: 9:00 AM

Eric C. Twombly, PhD , KDH Research and Communication Inc, Atlanta, GA
Stephanie N. MacLaverty, MS , KDH Research and Communication Inc, Atlanta, GA
Kristen D. Holtz, PhD , KDH Research and Communication Inc, Atlanta, GA
This paper explores the use of information on human genetics to increase students' health literacy within standards-constrained classrooms. Health literacy is the extent to which people learn and use fundamental health information to make informed health decisions. There is a call for increased health literacy among students in the U.S. However, recent policy shifts that emphasize core curriculum learning standards decreased the ability of schools to offer health content. Integrating health content into the core science curriculum is a possible approach to increase health literacy in the current educational environment.

One prominent aspect of health literacy is genetic literacy. Because genetics is part of the core science curriculum in most states' seventh and eighth grade classrooms, one potential method to bolster health literacy is to link genetic principles to students' health decisions.

To investigate this method, the paper reports on an analysis of focus group data collected in February 2009 with funding from the National Institutes of Health. The focus groups included science experts, 7th and 8th grade science teachers, and middle school students, respectively. The paper provides recommendations from science experts and teachers for building health literacy through a genetics-focused curriculum supplement for 7th and 8th graders and methods to overcome institutional and instructional barriers to using curriculum supplements to disseminate health information. Student groups provided data on how to make science and genetics relevant to them. The analytic result is a theoretical model for increasing students' health literacy with a genetics curriculum supplement in standards-based educational environments.

Learning Objectives:
Define health literacy and genetic literacy Identify institutional and instructional barriers to use of curriculum supplements as a means of disseminating health information Identify ways to interest and engage middle school students to learn genetics

Keywords: Health Literacy, Curricula

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a M.S. in Experimental Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and I am a Research Associate in the field of health and science literacy.
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.