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Atlantic General Hospital Kicks Off Next Phase Of Health Literacy Project

During the past year, Atlantic General Hospital’s Community Education Department has been working with the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University of Maryland and Worcester County Public Schools to develop the first set of health literacy standards for K-8 public school curriculum in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy. The study found that individuals with a health literacy level below basic were much more likely to report their health as being poor and less likely to use preventive health services than their peers.

Obesity reached epidemic levels in the early 2000s, and the prevalence of the newly categorized disease only continues to increase. More than one third of Americans are obese, and it is extending to our children. Ten percent of Worcester County adolescents are obese, and that number only increases with age to almost 13 percent.

Obesity is the root of a number of major illnesses and its cost to the healthcare system is devastating. Equally concerning, and many think closely related, is the lack of understanding of basic health principles.

Through the hard work and dedication of Atlantic General’s Community Education Department, the University of Maryland, the Worcester County Board of Education and the second grade teachers at Ocean City Elementary, a pilot project that integrates the proposed health literacy standards into daily curriculum kicked off Monday. Students are being assessed before the new lessons begin to establish a baseline of their understanding of basic health concepts. A second assessment will be conducted at the end of the school year to measure improvement.

“We’re very excited about this program,” said Dawn Denton, manager of the Healthy Happenings Community Education Department at Atlantic General Hospital. “The integration with existing math, science and reading lessons will expose school children to basic health principles again and again in a variety of ways throughout the school day. They can then carry these real life lessons home to their siblings and parents.”

Health literacy programs have been implemented in other areas of the country, but they have not been sustained. With this in mind, the Ocean City Elementary School teachers and administration worked tirelessly to integrate the core concepts of the proposed health literacy standards into their existing lessons.

The goal: to avoid adding another layer of education to their lesson plans. For example, the teachers incorporated a lesson on healthy eating from a story that they have been using in their language art programs for several years.

“The teachers’ knowledge and skill in incorporating these standards into their existing lesson plans has been crucial to the success of this program,” said Michael Franklin, AGH president and CEO, “These teachers are truly laying the groundwork for a successful, sustainable program. They are making history happen for the benefit of our children and our community.”

Next school year, the program is expected to expand to the second grade classes in all Worcester County elementary schools; the integration of health literacy standards will also be introduced in all Worcester County elementary and middle schools in varying grade levels. The data collected from the expanded pilot will then be used to present the model for adoption into the Maryland state curriculum changes in 2015.

Atlantic General Hospital is providing clinical expertise for the curriculum development as well as funding for the project, helped in part by a grant from the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation.

About Atlantic General Hospital
Atlantic General Hospital has been providing quality health care to the residents of Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset (Md.) and Sussex (Del.) counties since May 1993. Built by the commitment and generosity of a dedicated community, the hospital’s state-of-the-art facility in Berlin, Md., combines old-fashioned personal attention with the latest in technology and services. It provides quality specialty care such as general ophthalmic and retina surgery, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, outpatient infusion for individuals with cancer or blood/autoimmune disorders, and a comprehensive women’s diagnostic center. Atlantic General Health System, its network of more than 40 primary care providers and specialists, care for residents and visitors throughout the region. For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit

Photo caption: Cindy Leitgeb, a second grade teacher at Ocean City Elementary, explains how health literacy principles are woven into existing curriculum. Michael Franklin, CEO of Atlantic General Hospital, Dawn Rogers, principal of Ocean City Elementary (left) and Linda Aldoory, director of the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University Of Maryland School Of Public Health look on.