Photos: Michelle Camperson
May 2015…When Arthur C. Evans sat down for his interview with Healthy NewsWorks student journalists, he knew they had done their homework.
“They gave me a real firm handshake,” Evans said at the recent launch celebration for the fourth Healthy NewsWorks book, Leading Healthy Change in Our Communities 2015. “They were prepared. They had all their questions laid out. … I became a fan of this program that day.”
Evans, commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, was interviewed as a health leader for the 2014 book and returned as the keynote speaker for the 2015 book launch at the Merion Tribute House in Merion Station, Pa.
Nine of the 13 leaders whose stories appear in the new book joined several of the student authors and illustrators to sign copies and discuss their work. More than 170 community members gave the students a standing ovation at the end of the evening.
Amelia Atkinson, a fourth grader from Whitehall Elementary School, said she learned to value every book she finds, in her interview with Dr. Trude Haecker. Dr. Haecker is the medical director of Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia, which gives books to children during doctor visits. (Dr. Haecker is also medical director of International Patient Services and Quality Improvement at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.)
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Amelia said. Dr. Haecker taught her that “when I find old books in my house, I should not throw them away, I should donate them.”
Dr. Julie Gerberding, another of the 2015 health leaders, said she has seen many programs aimed at promoting health and wellness in her work. Among her jobs, she has served as the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and has headed up vaccine development at Merck. Healthy NewsWorks stands out because it has the potential for widespread impact, she said.
“This is really unusual and unique,” said Dr. Gerberding, who now is Merck’s executive vice president for strategic communications, global public policy and population health. “If children learn that they should eat well and exercise and that smoking and drugs are bad, they are going to influence their parents and others, too, so the effect is much greater.”
The Healthy NewsWorks program works with students, teachers, school staff, and volunteers to produce health-focused newspapers and related media in elementary and middle schools in Philadelphia, Norristown, and Upper Darby. During the 2014-15 school year, Healthy NewsWorks conducted special focus programs on bullying prevention and heart health.
—By Miriam Hill, Healthy NewsWorks volunteer