Since 2003, the Healthy NewsWorks student media program has offered a unique approach to addressing gaps in children’s literacy and health understanding. Working with student reporters in high-need elementary and middle schools, the program helps budding journalists produce health-focused newspapers, books and related media that are read by their fellow students, families and communities. During the 2016-17 school year, more than 400 students ages 8 to 14 served as health reporters in 15 schools throughout the Philadelphia area.
Eleven years ago, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Paul Offit visited the first Healthy NewsWorks school in Upper Darby, PA. He conducted a press conference with fifth grade health reporters on the avian flu, and the interaction was powerful. The experience became a model for Healthy NewsWorks to seek out experts who could engage with young reporters in exploring vital health information.
This press conference concept was central to the development of the Healthy NewsWorks book series, Leading Change in Our Communities, which began in 2012. The series features a dozen individuals in the Philadelphia area who are making the community healthier and safer for children and families.
In addition to Dr. Offit, Healthy NewsWorks student journalists have interviewed more than 70 health leaders for the series, many of them clinicians here at CHOP: Dr. Flaura Winston (2012), Dr. Tyra Bryant-Stephens (2013), Dr. Patricia De Russo (2014), Dr. Trude Haecker, (2015), Karen Hudson (2016), and Dr. Senbagam Virudachalam (2017).
In May of 2017, the Leading Change in Our Communities book series celebrated the publication of its sixth book with a signing at the Merion Tribute House. Dr. Offit, Dr. Virudachalam and Dr. Hecker were on hand to sign books for community members. Copies of the book will be distributed in schools and other community venues in the coming months. For more information, please visit healthynewsworks.org.