Integrated Health Literacy Program

What if every child was able to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services in order to live life to the fullest?

Photo of Chelsea Leonard
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Worcester County, Maryland ranks number one in the state for many behaviors that are not favorable for the youth population. In order to prevent future generations from continuing this trend, the Integrated Health Literacy Program was created to approach population change in an innovative way. Instead of students being taught concepts in their core area classrooms that do not relate to their life, students are now being taught lessons with a health-related twist.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Maryland

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Maryland

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Worcester County, Maryland

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the United States, only 12% of the adult population is proficient in health literacy. This means roughly 9 out of 10 people lack the skills to manage their own health. People with low health literacy are more likely to skip preventative care visits, have chronic conditions, and report their health as poor. The Integrated Health Literacy Program chose to address low health literacy by targeting children before their life long habits are formed.

Through implementing health literacy concepts and skills into core area classrooms (mathematics, social students, reading/language arts, and science), students are able to take the knowledge from their health classroom into their general classrooms and apply it to what they are already learning. By integrating lessons, students are taught concepts that are reinforced throughout the school day which we hope will lead to the adoption of healthy behaviors as they grow. 

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:


Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

The Integrated Health Literacy Program is implemented within core area classrooms in all elementary and middle schools in Worcester County Public Schools. Students in grades one through six are taught key health literacy concepts and skills that lay a solid foundation that allow students the necessary tools to make well-educated decisions about their health and the health of their families.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

During the 2014-15 school year, 2nd grade students showed a decrease in poor health literacy, from 57% pre-test to 31% post-test. 33-year veteran second-grade teacher and pilot group member Linda Brown found the “lesson plans to be engaging, helpful, and significant to changing our students’ health knowledge and wellness.” In the pre-test, 3rd grade only had 4.5% of the students with a perfect score of 6 for health literacy. During the post-test, this percent increased to 23%. 4th grade students also showed an increase in high health literacy from 45% pre-test to 64% post-test. There was also a significant decrease in students with the lowest health literacy from 14.6% (pre-test) to 4.5% (post-test). 5th grade students with a high health literacy score increased from 44% during the pre-test to 72% post-test. 6th grade was piloted this year and 7th & 8th grade will pilot next school year.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Financial sustainability for our community programming becomes challenging as hospital reimbursements decline, but our responsibility to the communities we serve is paramount. Many of the services we provide are supplemented through community and agency support. The Atlantic General Hospital Foundation, under the Board of Trustees, coordinates fundraising drives and events to support community programs and services provided by Atlantic General.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Our program works closely with the University of Maryland's Hershel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy to create an innovative approach to low health literacy. To the best of our knowledge, there are no programs in place in the entire country that integrate health literacy concepts and skills into core area classrooms using both health literacy standards (created by our team) and already existing core area standards. A few programs around the country have included health literacy in curriculum in one grade at one school but nothing exists county-wide as our program does.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The most important shift in the advancement of children's well-being is applying thinking to the whole child rather than just focusing on one aspect of his/her life. This means looking at each dimension of the child's wellness (social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical) and ensure that all aspects are balanced and taken into consideration. An approach that covers not only one area of all child's life, but all areas, ensures that a child has the resources to live a comfortable, happy, and healthy life.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email


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Photo of Ivette Guillermo-McGahee

Chelsea, thank you for sharing this contribution.  Would you care to share some specific examples of how health topics are integrated with core subjects?  Looking forward to your response!

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