For the first time in our nation’s history, children can expect to live shorter lives than their parent’s generation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control continues to publish shocking statistics that paint a gloomy picture of our children’s future health. To help reverse the tide, Mercy has invested $7 million for years of health education in schools in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
The health literacy program now offered to the schools at no charge is called HealthTeacher, and it provides online health lessons and resources for educators focused on improving health literacy from kindergarten through 12th grade. For more than a decade, HealthTeacher has been used with great success in some of the nation’s largest school districts. Mercy’s partnership was a first for HealthTeacher – partnering with an entire health system. Recently, over 100 educators from the Berryville Public School District were trained on the program. Eureka Springs and Green Forest schools began using HealthTeacher in the 2011-12 school year.
“It is great to be part of an organization that is so concerned about the health of our kids,” said Kristy Estrem, president of Mercy Hospital Berryville. “The money contributed to secure the licensing for schools to access the many tools of this program is incredible. I’ve seen some of the lessons, and they are wonderful in teaching valuable health information.”
HealthTeacher now reaches more than 800,000 students in the four states Mercy serves. In Northwest Arkansas, Mercy shares the associated costs with Arkansas Children's Hospital. In this co-branded area, Mercy and Arkansas Children’s Hospital sponsor HealthTeacher in 87 districts, 462 schools, with the potential of reaching 210,100 students.
HealthTeacher is the interactive leader in youth health, creating games, apps, and educational resources to make health awesome for kids. This even includes emotional health. For example, last fall Mercy and HealthTeacher launched the anti-bullying mobile game, “Awesome Upstander!” It is designed for elementary-aged children, and it encourages them to race through a school cafeteria and bathroom to help rescue a target from a bully. Along the way, players must collect enough friends to stand up to the bully together. The adventure introduces the concept of “upstanders” – people who safely and positively intervene in a bully situation – through a fun and entertaining play experience.
HealthTeacher's research-based products are designed to get kids moving and to develop healthy behaviors that last a lifetime. Reaching over 6 million kids through its fast-growing network of 11,000+ schools, HealthTeacher’s interactive products are used by teachers, parents, and kids to address important youth health issues, including physical activity, nutrition, and social and emotional well-being. “The HealthTeacher program has been a wonderful resource for our staff all across the district,” said Dr. Randy Byrd, superintendent of Berryville Public School District. “It enables the teaching staff to target areas of concern and provides detailed lessons to address those concerns.”