School & Community News

Evaluations capture Healthy NewsWorks impact
July 25, 2018

University of Pennsylvania public health students (from left) Abigail Blauch and Samantha Calderone present their findings.

July 2018… Healthy NewsWorks student reporters showed improvements in health knowledge, research abilities, and interviewing skills each year of an analysis completed recently by two public health graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Abigail Blauch and Samantha Calderone studied the results of Healthy NewsWorks program assessments conducted from 2014 to 2107. The purpose of their study was to explore strategies and challenges of conducting on-the-ground program evaluations, using the Healthy NewsWorks evaluation process as an example.

“It’s important that we showcase on-the-ground programs like this at public health conferences,” said Moriah Hall, MPH, associate director of the Master of Public Health (MPH) Program at the University of Pennsylvania and a Healthy NewsWorks board member, who served as research and evaluation manager for the study.

The graduate students presented their findings in a poster presentation at the recent Pennsylvania Public Health Association conference in Lancaster.

Measuring results against a rubric, or a defined set of learning objectives developed by Healthy NewsWorks, the graduate students looked at several aspects of the annual assessments:

• Pre/Post tests: 82 students evaluated during the 2016–17 school year showed a 50% improvement in scores on assessments completed at the start of the program versus those at the end of the program. Notable areas of improvement included identifying trustworthy websites; sourcing information; and preparing for an interview.

• Content analysis: Healthy eating was a primary topic in the school health newspapers all three years. Active lifestyle became a primary focus area in 2016-17.

• Qualitative analysis: Students cited nutrition and physical activity as well as interviewing and research skills as their most meaningful reporting experiences.

“Across all questions on the pre- and post-assessments between 2014–17, student reporters showed improvement on post-assessments in identifying trustworthy information, interviewing skills, and listing a variety of healthy habits,” the graduate students concluded.

“We are very excited to see our evaluations not only capturing important progress by the student reports in our program but also shedding light on how best to capture the impact of programs such as ours,” said Marian Uhlman, executive director of Healthy NewsWorks. “We’re very grateful to Abby, Sam, and Moriah for their hard work and thoughtful approach behind this study.”

The Pennsylvania Public Health Association works to promote the health of Pennsylvania residents by advancing sound public health policies and practice. Public health students and professionals from across Pennsylvania attended the April conference.

Other topics addressed during the conference included health data management, strategies for improving health care access, advocacy to counter the opiod crisis, and integrating nutrition programs into the community.

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Since 2003, Healthy NewsWorks has been empowering elementary and middle school students to become researchers, writers, and confident communicators who advance health understanding and literacy through their factual publications and digital media.