Everyone remembers their first sexual health and wellness conversation. Imagine how much better it could have been if this conversation took place on a peer to peer level?
There are a number of great organizations like Yale’s Community Health Educators or the Peer Health Exchange that try to create safer spaces for teens and young adults to learn about health issues like nutrition, sexually transmitted illnesses and mental health, without leaving anyone out of the conversation.
Every state in the United States has a different way of handling or recommending health education programs in public schools. Some states, like California, have specific guidelines for the topics that must be covered and when they are to be taught in schools, for example, HIV/AIDS prevention instructions between 7-12th grade and parenting education in 7th or 8th grade. Others are much less strict about the material and expected outcomes.
In 1999, communities in New Haven wanted to improve access health education resources. A teacher from Wilbur Cross High School and a group of Yale students came together to develop the Community Health Educators (CHE) and develop a comprehensive curriculum for high school students. Since then, CHE has grown to a group of 150 volunteers, working in twenty-four middle schools and high schools in New Haven. Michael Solotke, a former Coordinator for the program, says that the curriculum changes yearly and “is designed to empower students with skills and knowledge to help them make healthy decisions throughout their lives.”
The Peer Health Exchange (PHE) is a program that grew out of the original CHE and decided to address gaps in health education on a national level. Colleges in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and many other cities across the United States partner with PHE to provide similar comprehensive health education in schools across the country.
“We really value being able to teach on a peer-to-peer level,” says Katherine Rich, one of this year’s coordinators for Communtiy Health Educators. Rich believes it plays an important role in teaching and communicating with teens about challenging topics like sexual and mental health.
New York City is one of PHE’s largest markets. This program is already partnered with New York University, Barnard College, Hunter College and a number of other institutions in the city, but they are always looking for dedicated volunteers.
While both Solotke and Rich commented that there have been some exciting improvements in Health education resources over time, there is a still a lot to be done.
But new issues in health care and health education arise all the time.
How many of us have struggled to understand the fine print of health insurance contracts, doctor’s disclosure statements, and other more technical aspects of our healthcare system? How much are we really expected to know and be able to navigate on our own?
Some communities are also having trouble navigating the more technical parts of the healthcare system. While tools like ZocDoc are helping us find and review doctors, insurance coverage difficult to understand or use without a little guidance. Some organizations like Resources for Human Development in Philadelphia offer a “Health Insurance Navigator” program to help those who are newly insured navigate the health care system.
It really seems like we need a degree of health education at every stage of our lives… does anyone know about any particular clinics that offer regular “health and healthcare education” classes for adults?
[Disclosure: this is a version of a post that might go up on another blog. Once the post goes up, I will credit it and link to the new version here]