Discover Health/Descubre la Salud: A Colorado Community Engagement Project

  • Project Description

    Discover Health/Descubre la Salud (DH/DS) addresses cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, which are among the nation’s most serious public health issues, especially among underserved and rural populations. It also encourages youth, especially those from underserved communities (e.g. Latinos and African Americans), to pursue careers in biomedical research and health. This Colorado-based project engages students, families, and adults in these important health issues by using a strategic combination of a traveling health education exhibition for 9 host Colorado libraries, mobile exhibits at community health fairs, schools and festivals; career events; and online learning resources. The project also includes the development of health programs, online and in-person training, and evaluation.

  • Abstract

    In the 21st Century, a basic understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is part of being an informed and engaged citizen (Institute for Museum and library Services). Science and technology are widely recognized as major drivers of innovation and industry. They are transforming our lives in ways that are hard to comprehend – in communication, energy, transportation, and health. The Discover Health project addresses several issues important to the future health and educational development of Colorado citizens:

    1. Low levels of health literacy, which have a significant impact on health status;
    2. Growing public health issues associated with rapidly increasing rates of diabetes and obesity (which are serious risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other health conditions), especially among rural and minority youth;
    3. The need to support STEM education in Colorado to develop the highly educated biomedical workforce needed for biomedical research institutions, the biomedical technology companies in Colorado, and health care professionals, especially those from minority backgrounds.

    While the focus for education reform is on school improvement, there is considerable research that supports the role that out-of-school experiences can play in student achievement and public understanding of STEM disciplines. Public libraries are transforming into accessible community centers that provide free resources and STEM programming for their communities.

    Public libraries are particularly ideal for reaching underserved audiences, and the project team has had success in working with libraries to engage these audiences directly. Public libraries serve people of all races, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of over 6,200 Americans to learn about how people utilized public library services. The Pew survey found that 91% of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities and are an important education resource, and 76% say libraries are important to them and their families. African-Americans (60%) and Hispanics (55%) are more likely to say that libraries are “very important” to them and their families compared to Caucasian families (41%). Study findings indicated that Americans view public libraries as places that help improve literacy and the quality of life by providing resources, services, access to materials, and youth programming.

    Discover Health/Descubre la Salud is managed by the University of Colorado’s Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program Office in collaboration with the STAR Library Network ( team, and CLACE (a Latino outreach organization in Colorado).

    The traveling exhibition will reach 9 library communities in Colorado in all 6 AHEC regions. It addresses the nation’s most serious public health issues, especially among underserved and rural populations (diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular health). It also encourages youth, especially those from at-risk communities to pursue careers in health care professions.

    Our specific aims include:

    1. Increase youth and adult patrons’ interest, knowledge, and engagement with health.
    2. Increase health science program participation at libraries in communities with populations underserved and underrepresented in STEM with a special emphasis on Latino populations.
    3. Build the capacity of libraries and library staff in Colorado to deliver inspirational and effective health science learning experiences for their communities.
    4. Increase the interest and ability of libraries to partner with a variety of health science professionals and educators (in Colorado and beyond) to establish effective, on-going health education programs.
  • Resources for Sharing

    Training Program: Conduct online and in-person workshops (for host exhibit library staff and library attendees at the annual Colorado Library Association conference) to prepare library staff to host the exhibits, implement programming ideas, and become integrated into the STAR_Net online community. Conduct a series of webinars about the project for libraries nationwide.

    Professional Learning Community: Expand the scope and reach of the STAR_Net online learning community to include health education topics and programs.

Project Audience

  • Public library staff
  • General public, including adults
  • Students (grades 4-12) and their families
  • Underserved and rural communities in Colorado

Subjects Addressed

Public health: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, health career exploration.

Associated SEPA Publication(s)