New Health Literacy Standards In Practice At OC Elementary

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OCEAN CITY, Md. – Health education is getting a makeover at Ocean City Elementary School.

After more than two years of discussion and collaboration between Atlantic General Hospital, the University of Maryland, and the Worcester County Board of Education, a pilot project implementing health literacy into the daily curriculum of all second grade classes is underway.

"Students don't just need health education but they need to be literate in those areas of health," says Tamara Mills, Director of Health Programs at the Worcester County Board of Education.

"It's more skills around being confident to talk about health, to change health, and not just the facts," says Linda Aldoory, Director of the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University of Maryland.

Officials with the center evaluated students on Monday before getting any health literacy lessons, then will come back in June to see their progress.

"If we can build these understandings and skills now it could help prevent problems later," says Aldoory.

Next school year, the program is reportedly expected to expand to the second grade classes in all Worcester County elementary schools, and the integration of health literacy standards will also be introduced in all Worcester County elementary and middle schools in varying grade levels. Officials say the data collected from the expanded pilot will then be used to present the model for adoption into the Maryland state curriculum changes in 2015, and will hopefully be pushed nationwide for the first time in the United States.

"We have to develop the curriculum and develop the materials in creating a type of curriculum that doesn't exist anywhere," says Michael Franklin, president and CEO of Atlantic General Hospital.

In the meantime, Ocean City Elementary teachers are taking a "trans-disciplinary" approach, that does not add more curriculum, but instead incorporates health literacy and other subjects, such as reading, math, and science, together as one.

"We are taking the aspects of a story and the integrating the health portions of it," says Cynthia Leitgeb, a second grade teacher at Ocean City Elementary. "We don't want the kids to see it as a separate lesson."

"It's more of a real life approach to learning," says Dawn Rogers, principal of Ocean City Elementary School.

Although it is just in the beginning stages, both educational and health officials involved with the project have big long-term goals.

"We want to create better healthcare consumers for the future," says Franklin. "We want them to know how to properly care for themselves and take care of themselves in the community, so our next generations don't have the same difficulties that we have."

Officials with the Worcester County Board of Education say that Atlantic General Hospital and a Perdue Foundation grant have covered the funding so far. They say they do expect future costs, but cannot predict what they will be at this time.


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