Health literacy is one of the most important components in preserving positive health and wellbeing. It is important for organizations and individual nurses to work as advocates for health literacy on a continuous basis so that clients are provided with the tools that are necessary to make favorable decisions regarding their own health. For children and adolescents, health literacy is particularly relevant because this group does not always understand or recognize the importance of methods to preserve their own health. Therefore, health literacy is critical to their own wellbeing and growth into adulthood. For community health nurses, it is essential to develop new strategies and approaches to encourage children and adolescents to be effective promoters of their own health through individual decision-making. The following discussion will address some of these strategies and objectives in order to demonstrate the importance of health preservation in the context of literacy for youth and adolescents.
For the Yvonne Learning Center, several groups of youth will benefit from a comprehensive health literacy program, including children and adolescents between the ages of 3-7 years old, 9-12 years old, and 14-18 years old. Perhaps the most critical lesson to be learned is to recognize the importance of individuality in making health-related decisions so that peer pressure and other influences do not play a negative role in health decision-making. Community health nurses will provide the educational resources that are necessary to achieve these objectives by engaging children in age-appropriate discussions regarding health topics of importance, such as diet, exercise, and daily habits. Children should be educated regarding the necessity to preserve their bodies and to make decisions that will not lead to any unnecessary harm or damage to their health in any way. These negative behaviors may include poor hygiene, smoking, poor eating habits, or limited physical activity.
From a community nursing perspective, health literacy must provide a basis for the exploration of different ideas and approaches to encourage children within the designated age groups to be resourceful and self-sufficient in their efforts to make their own health a priority in their young lives. In designing a health literacy program, recognizing the needs of the target audience is of primary importance in order to accomplish the desired educational objectives over the long term. In addition, recognizing that health literacy is not likely to be a priority for these age groups must be recognized so that the programmatic effort is appropriate and effective in getting the message across. For these age groups, possible topics include personal hygiene, nutrition, exercise, and for the older group, smoking and alcohol. Each of these topics is relevant to the age groups and support the development of new perspectives to discuss personal health and wellbeing.
The community health nurse must be effective in not only providing information to the designated age groups, but also to demonstrate that health is not only important, but can be made to be a fun topic for discussion and for different activities. As a result, providing the groups with activities to not only discuss health but to recognize how important it is to make health a priority would be effective and satisfying for the group. In addition, these efforts would be useful in providing support towards the discussion of new objectives and approaches to guide children and adolescents towards the development of healthy habits that will remain with them into adulthood. Community health nurses must convey these objectives to their audience in a manner that is age appropriate and fresh in their minds.
In assessing the program and its overall effectiveness, it is necessary to establish an approach that will guide these groups in recognizing their own current knowledge regarding health and how this might impact their wellbeing throughout their lives. If they are provided with knowledge and do not use it to their advantage, then the program is not performing to achieve its desired results. However, if children and adolescents begin to recognize that health is important in their lives, even at a young age, then the impact is likely to be greater. At the end of the program, offering reminders to the audience provides an important opportunity to make health not only critical, but fun and manageable.
The creation of a program to provide health literacy and education to children and adolescents provides a means of planting the seeds to improve and preserve their health at a young age. Community health nurses must provide a greater opportunity to develop their students in providing them with new ideas and approaches to making positive decisions that will impact their health. This process is essential to their wellbeing and supports the initiative to be effective in addressing topics such as nutrition, exercise, personal hygiene, and even negative habits such as smoking and alcohol. Using available resources is also essential to this process and supports the continued growth of the program. However, the most important reminder to community health nurses is to make the health literacy program fun and interesting for participants so that their attention is maintained throughout the program. This population is vulnerable and does not have a lengthy attention span; therefore, the educational staff must develop strategies that will allow health to be a fun topic for discussion, and for which many different activities are likely to be beneficial to the group. These options are likely to be effective in educating this group in a manner that is appropriate for their age and their knowledge base.