Developing Skills in Health Literacy

  • Project Description

    It has been reported that poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of health than age income, employment status, education level, and race. Poor health literacy is estimated to cost the US economy from $106 billion to $238 billion annually. The Developing Skills in Health Literacy project provides students and teachers an engaging, online environment in which to learn how to evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of science and health information as well as the importance of biomedical research to health literacy.

    The DSHL 5-year project will develop and study innovative instructional materials designed to enhance middle- and high-school students’ skills and abilities in health literacy.

    Health-related information from family, friends, social media, and the Internet inundates our lives every day. Developing skills to answer questions about health topics can be complicated, such with the following questions.

    • Why is caffeine powder dangerous when people consume caffeinated drinks every day?
    • Why do people get a flu shot every year? Isn’t once enough?
    • Who should take multivitamins daily?
    • Why are some treatments that are used in other parts of the world not available in the US?

    Understanding the science behind these questions requires an ability to ask questions and find and evaluate information from different sources.

    Overarching goals for developing skills in health literacy

    The DSHL project will develop innovative curriculum materials that:

    • help middle- and high-school students better understand health literacy and the skills needed to acquire and maintain it,
    • increase middle- and high-school students’ abilities to obtain and evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of health-related information,
    • help students better understand the importance of scientific evidence in making decisions about health information and health claims,
    • help students identify risks that can arise by believing or following non-scientific or non-fact-based health-related information,
    • raise students’ awareness of and interest in careers in biomedical science,
    • meet the needs of students from populations that are underrepresented in STEM careers and underserved in education, and
    • provide professional development opportunities for teachers involved with the creation of the instructional materials.
  • Abstract

    The Developing Skills in Health Literacy (DSHL) project will develop innovative materials for teachers and students to help students enhance their abilities to evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of science and health-related information. The focus will be on helping students to develop a personal rubric that they can use to assess the quality of information relevant to their personal health and that of their families. The DSHL project will develop a program accessible at no cost through a website that features:

    1. Separate student-centered modules for middle school and high school students, each consisting of five lessons (five to seven days of instruction) that use health as a context for learning what health literacy is and how to evaluate the usefulness of information needed to make informed decisions about health issues. The modules will feature the BSCS 5E Instructional Model and will be explicitly aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
    2. Teacher implementation guides will include annotated step-by-step instructions for the lessons, background information, common ideas students have about health, answer keys, assessment strategies, examples of student work, advice on teaching controversial topics, and strategies for having students share their newly acquired knowledge with family, friends, or other members of the school community.
    3. Student motivation via personally relevant content, authentic scientific investigations, and an interactive online environment. Additionally, the results of the efficacy study will provide valuable evidence about best practices for science education.
  • Project Evaluation(s)

    An efficacy study will help education researchers and teachers better understand effective methods for teaching students important health literacy concepts.

Project Audience

Middle school and high school students

Subjects Addressed

Health literacy, life science, science practices