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AGH works to promote health literacy in Worcester Schools

Atlantic General Hospital and Health System, along with its partners, the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University of Maryland College Park School of Public Health and Worcester County Public Schools, continue to make measurable improvements in the health literacy levels of elementary and middle school students in Worcester County.

Health literacy is measured by an individual’s ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. A high level of health literacy is crucial to achieving a healthy lifestyle and properly utilizing healthcare services.

Integrated Health Literacy Program (IHLP) standards help guide teachers in developing lesson plans for core area classrooms (math, reading language arts, science, and social studies) that include basic health literacy concepts and skills. The integrated lessons vary depending on grade level that the program is implemented.

Lesson topics include the role of heroin use in the criminal justice system in social studies class or how opioids affect the brain chemically during science class. During the 2016-2017 school year, seventh and eighth grade teachers at Stephen Decatur Middle School piloted the IHLP within their core area classrooms. The sixth grade curriculum was also expanded countywide, while teachers in grades one through five continued to implement the IHLP curriculum.

The IHLP completed its fourth year with pre-testing all sixth grade students in the county and seventh and eighth grade students at Stephen Decatur Middle School prior to implementation of the curriculum in the fall and then again post-curriculum implementation in the spring. The results for the 2016-2017 school year show demonstrate significant positive impact of the program.

In grades six, seven and eight, the average health literacy scores increased from pre-test to post-test. Other findings include:

  • More 6th grade students at post-test reported talking about Internet safety with friends and family.
  • There was a statistically significant increase in the percentage of students who moved into the highest health literacy score range. Sixth grade realized an increase of more than 15 percentage points. Seventh grade high health literacy scores increased by nearly 16 percentage points, and eighth grade by nearly eight points.
  • At post-test, 69.5 percent of eighth graders reported being extremely confident they could say “no” when a friend is pressuring them to try illicit drugs such as heroin, a statistically significant improvement over pre-test results.

“Individuals have to understand basic health principles before they can become active and effective partners in their own care. We’re pleased with the results.” said Michael Franklin, CEO of Atlantic General Hospital.
During the current 2017-2018 school year, the IHLP is being implemented in grades 1-8 county-wide, the first year of full implementation of the program. The program currently serves more than 3,800 students. To learn more about the health literacy program please visit www.atlanticgeneral.org/healthliteracy.

About Atlantic General Hospital
Atlantic General Hospital has been providing quality health care to the residents of Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset (Md.) and Sussex (Del.) counties since May 1993. Built by the commitment and generosity of a dedicated community, the hospital’s state-of-the-art facility in Berlin, Md., combines old-fashioned personal attention with the latest in technology and services. It provides quality specialty care such as weight loss surgery, orthopedics, outpatient infusion and chemotherapy for individuals with cancer or blood/autoimmune disorders, and a comprehensive women’s diagnostic center. Atlantic General Health System, its network of more than 40 primary care providers and specialists, care for residents and visitors throughout the region. For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit www.atlanticgeneral.org.

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