School-Based Interventions to Improve Health Literacy
School-based interventions show promise for improving
health literacy among rural children. School-based interventions have shown promise in improving
children's health outcomes and may reduce health disparities. Strengthening the integration of personal health
literacy and school health education can also help future generations. Evidence points to collaboration
between health education and health literacy further improving health and overall well-being, including
building communication efforts among schools, parents, students, public health officials, and other community
One example of a school-based intervention is school-based health centers
(SBHCs), which provide primary healthcare services to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, either within
a school building or at another location. SBHCs in certain locations may also provide care to family members and
other community members who do not have children enrolled in the school. SBHCs
can improve health literacy among students and their families by building health self-efficacy,
increasing healthcare access, and increasing knowledge about health information.
Examples of School-Based Interventions to Improve Health Literacy
Healthy Communities (HSHC) is an initiative that works with K-8 schools in 32 school districts in
Missouri. HSHC implements wellness assessments and action plans to reduce childhood obesity in these school
districts. The action plans encourage multi-level engagement at the student, family, and community level
to improve health literacy by increasing access to healthy food and physical activity.
The River Valley
Healthy Communities Coalition (RVHCC) Health Information Literacy Outreach Project developed a
health information literacy curriculum that was piloted by teachers and librarians in schools in rural
Oxford County, Maine. The intended audience was young adult students. The curriculum includes three lessons
on finding health information online, evaluating reliability of information, using the information to learn
about personal health, and sharing these skills with older family or community members.
University of Maryland, Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy partnered with Atlantic General
Hospital and Worcester County Public Schools to develop the Integrated
Health Literacy Program (IHLP). The IHLP was implemented in every public school in Worcester County,
Maryland, for students in first through eighth grade. The program helped teachers embed health literacy
concepts into their curriculums.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Cornerstone Care utilizes the CATCH model
(Coordinated Approach to Child Health) in schools to train physical education teachers and other school
staff to promote exercise and increased activity in kids.
Schools offer an ideal location for health literacy programming for rural children and adolescents. Schools are
often the hub of a community, and teachers and school administrators are often trusted community members.
Teaching health literacy skills from an early age can empower youth to manage their health and well-being and to
ultimately navigate the healthcare system once they are older. Programs implementing a school-based intervention
should consider addressing specific health needs of community members.
Research shows that incorporating health literacy curricula into the school day ensures all students have improved
access to important health programming. These interventions, however, often occur after school, rather
than during the instructional portion of the school day.
For additional implementation considerations related to implementing SBHCs and other school-based health
programs, see the School-Based Services Integration
Model in the Rural Services Integration Toolkit.
Resources to Learn More
Health Literacy: Schools
Provides resources for teaching and incorporating health literacy skills into early childhood, adolescent, and
young adult curriculums.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)