Background: School-based campaigns to improve student health have demonstrated short-term success across various health topics. However, evidence of the effectiveness of programs in promoting healthy beliefs and behaviors is limited. We hypothesized that educational curricula teaching the science behind health promotion would increase student knowledge, beliefs and adherence to healthy behaviors, in this case related to influenza.
Methods: Integrated Science Education Outreach is a successful education intervention in Rochester, Minnesota public schools that has demonstrated improvements in student learning. Within this program, we designed novel curricula and assessments to determine if gains in knowledge extended to influenza prevention. Further, we coupled InSciEd Out programming with a clinical intervention, Influenza Prevention Prescription Education (IPPE), to compare students' attitudes, intentions and healthy behaviors utilizing surveys and hand hygiene monitoring equipment.
Results: 95 students participated in (IPPE) in the intervention school. Talking drawings captured improvement in influenza prevention understanding related to hand washing [pre n=17(43%); post n=30(77%)] and vaccination [pre n=2(5%); post n=15(38%)]. Findings from 1024 surveys from 566 students revealed strong baseline understanding and attitudes related to hand washing and cough etiquette (74% or greater positive responses). Automated hand hygiene monitoring in school bathrooms and classrooms estimated compliance for both soap (overall median 63%, IQR 38% to 100%) and hand sanitizer use (0.04 to 0.24 uses per student per day) but did not show significant pre/ post IPPE differences.
Conclusions: Student understanding of principles of influenza prevention was reasonably high. Even with this baseline, InSciEd Out and IPPE improved students' unprompted knowledge of behaviors to prevent influenza, as reflected by talking drawings. This novel metric may be more sensitive in capturing knowledge among students than traditional assessment methods. However, IPPE did not produce further significant differences in student attitudes and behaviors regarding the flu.
Keywords: Child health; Community health; Health behavior; Influenza; Science education.
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