, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 262-270
Date: 07 Apr 2009

Educating Youth About Health and Science Using a Partnership Between an Academic Medical Center and Community-based Science Museum

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Abstract

Declining student interest and scholastic abilities in the sciences are concerns for the health professions. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health is committed to promoting more research on health behaviors among US youth, where one of the most striking contemporary issues is obesity. This paper reports findings on the impact of a partnership between Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry linked to a 17-week exhibition of BodyWorlds3 and designed to inform rural underserved youth about science and health research. Self-administered survey measures included health knowledge, attitudes, intended health behaviors, and interest in the health professions. Four hundred four surveys (88% of participants) were included in analyses. Ninety percent or more found both the BodyWorlds (n = 404) and OHSU (n = 239) exhibits interesting. Dental care habits showed the highest level of intended behavior change (Dental = 45%, Exercise = 34%, Eating = 30%). Overall, females and middle school students were more likely than male and high school students, respectively, to state an intention to change exercise, eating and dental care habits. Females and high school students were more likely to have considered a career in health or science prior to their exhibit visit and, following the exhibit, were more likely to report that this intention had been reinforced. About 6% of those who had not previously considered a career in health or science (n = 225) reported being more likely to do so after viewing the exhibits. In conclusion, high quality experiential learning best created by community-academic partnerships appears to have the ability to stimulate interest and influence intentions to change health behaviors among middle and high school students.