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Impact of an arts-based public health literacy program delivered online to high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Program: School Health and Wellness
  • The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the domestic socio-political unrest of 2020, provides a critical opportunity to reframe how we engage with youth around health and disease risk. Historically, youth health education programs have primarily focused on the importance of individual behavior change to protect health, rather than concentrate on the larger, systemic and structural contributors to health and disease that can influence exposure and behavior. The Bigger Picture (TBP), a spoken word, arts-based public health literacy campaign, uses a social justice and racial equity frame to activate youth around social determinants of health, including salient topics such as type 2 diabetes, COVID-19, climate change, and police violence. This quasi-experimental study determined the impact of providing an online adaptation of TBP during the COVID-19 pandemic to urban, low-income, diverse high school students (3 intervention schools assigned to receive TBP-based spoken word program; 3 comparison schools received a non-health focused spoken word program). This evaluation uses a framework that assesses students’ understanding of the root causes of health and disease, as well as students’ sense of community belonging and interest in civic engagement around health and used outcomes derived from the Culture of Health framework, including: (1) health-related mind-sets and expectations; (2) sense of belonging; and (3) civic engagement. Students completed pre/post surveys; a subset of adults and youth from all 6 schools completed semi-structured interviews. TBP’s arts-based programming related to the socioecological model of health and health inequities was well-received by youth and adults across schools at a time when our country was grappling with many health and equity-related issues, coupled with the challenges brought by remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TBP participation, specifically, resulted in a quantifiable increase in students’ reported mindsets around the determinants of health and health equity, as well as future plans for civic engagement, demonstrating that programming with a specific and intentional focus on these issues can positively impact young people. Online youth health-related programming is not without its challenges but may still be a worthwhile approach during times of limited resources or when in-person gathering isn’t possible. Our findings suggest that well-designed and skillfully led arts-based, participatory programming that engages youth around public health content can advance a culture of health not only in the in-person public high school classroom setting, but also in the online setting.
Hannah Thompson
UC Berkeley School of Public Health
Assitant Research Professor
  • Linked Session ID: 941964
  • Authors: Hannah Thompson, PhD, MPH1, Jackie Mendelson, MPH1, Maya Zamek, MA1, Gabriel Cortez2, Dean Schillinger, MD3
    1UC Berkeley School of Public Health, 2Youth Speaks, 3dUCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital
  • Learning Outcome 1: Describe traditional versus novel approaches for engaging high school students around health and health literacy.
  • Learning Outcome 2: Describe how a spoken word, arts-based public health literacy campaign uses a social justice and racial equity frame to activate youth around social determinants of health in the online school setting
  • Learning Outcome 3: Describe and understand the challenges of delivering health education curriculum to students online
  • Linked Session Title: Social and Emotional Health in School Settings 2