- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
Teaching health literacy during a pandemic
As students have returned to the classrooms, many have brought questions about the pandemic or other health issues to nurses and teachers. For Becca Hinnenkamp, a health and wellness teacher at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus and a Certified Pharmacy Technician, health literacy is a large part of her job.
“Health literacy is about understanding what you’re reading, where it came from and what it’s trying to communicate,” Hinnenkamp said.
Hinnenkamp teaches an introduction to health and wellness class along with pharmacy technician class, where students learn content they need to become certified after graduation. She works with students who are interested in a career in healthcare to help them see whether they have an affinity for the field. Though not all of her students go on to a career in healthcare, Hinnenkamp says learning about health and wellness is critical, especially now.
“We start by asking: ‘What do I know, what do I think I know and what do I want to know?’” Hinnenkamp said. “We talk a lot about where information comes from, when the information came out and how to consider it carefully. We talk about why someone is writing this article or doing this study so we can practice the critical thinking skills that are necessary to work in medicine and science.”
Students in Hinnenkamp’s class also read articles and studies, typically from pharmacy publications. Some recent topics have included turmeric and its possible role in fighting cancer, the mental health of pharmacists and information about package inserts, which are the guides given to people with their medication that detail side effects and uses. Hinnenkamp tries to emphasize the real-world application of her topics.
“Most of us know someone who is taking some kind of medication,” Hinnenkamp said. “There are so many applications to students’ daily lives. We talk about how Tylenol and aspirin are not the same, or how grapefruit can interact with some cholesterol medication.”
Hinnenkamp adds that because scientists continue to test and learn more, medicine and pharmacy are two industries that continue to change. She shows her students that she continues to update her information and stay updated on the best practices. During a global pandemic, she added that learning as much as you can about health and wellness is critical.
“Health literacy keeps you safe and it keeps your family safe, which is important when we consider the pandemic right now,” she said. “Health is something that belongs to a community, and we all play a part in keeping our community strong.”