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Focus On Basics

Volume 5, Issue C ::: February 2002


Peanut butter and jelly, Mom and apple pie, literacy and health...they're pairs that fit together naturally. In this issue of Focus on Basics, we explore some of the many ways in which literacy and health partnerships are enacted. They tend to fall into two categories: approaches that seek to empower students to navigate more easily the often overwhelming US healthcare system, and approaches that seek to educate literacy students about and alleviate health problems.

NCSALL researcher Rima Rudd sketches out the history of the growing interaction between the two fields. In addition, Rudd describes the diffusion of innovation theory, which helps to explain how and why this interaction came about. This theory also sheds light on why students are so effective in catalyzing their peers to act on health-related issues.

Students acting together in activities related to health are described by Beth Russett, in an account of her year as a nurse practitioner providing health education in a Laubach program in Maine. Also concerned about students' health needs, ESOL teacher Kate Singleton turned familiar issues into evocative classroom materials. As students built their conversation skills, they learned how to access resources available in Virginia, such as low-cost health care and translation services within the health care system.

Violence is not always recognized as a health issue, but teachers across the country are increasingly recognizing its role in impeding learning. The Women, Violence, and Adult Education project described in the article by Elizabeth Morrish enabled participating programs to explore ways to address this educational barrier, not necessarily by dealing with it directly but by focusing on wellness itself. Leslie Ridgeway and Dale Griffith provide an inside view of how this worked at their program in the York Correctional Institute in Connecticut.

A successful marriage between literacy and health - and all the related benefits that result - cannot come about solely through the acts of individuals and programs. State-level policy must play a role as well. Marcia Hohn interviewed five state policy-makers to learn how they are supporting efforts to bring health and literacy together in their respective states. She shares six strategies in her article.

To share your experiences with integrating literacy and health, or to ask questions of this edition's authors, join the Focus on Basics electronic discussion list. We look forward to expanding and enriching this conversation with your participation.


Barbara Garner

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL