Addressing Health Disparities with School-Based Outreach: the Health Career Academy Program
Pipeline programs address health disparities by promoting academic achievement and entry of low-income ethnic and racial minority youth into healthcare fields. The Health Career Academy (HCA) is a 3-year pipeline program for high school students from low-income, ethnic, and racial minority communities. Health professional students serve as program mentors. The HCA has been implemented in nine US sites, with partnerships between 17 health professional schools and 17 high schools. A total of 386 10th grade students and 95 11th grade students enrolled as participants in the 2015–2016 HCA program. In post-participation surveys, 10th grade students reported that the HCA helped them learn about different healthcare career options, plan for how to reach career goals, and understand how healthcare workers care for patients. Eleventh grade participants noted the program made them aware of the importance of public health and taught them about medical conditions, self-care, and safety. Eighty-six percent of 10th graders and 71% of 11th graders reported that they are considering healthcare careers. Students’ favorite aspects of the HCA included the following: time with mentors, learning about science and health, team collaboration and hands-on experiences, field trips, and team presentations. Teachers noted the following as most important in the program: interaction with mentors and healthcare professionals, learning broadly applicable skills, stimulation of interest in health-related careers, presentation skills, and creating optimism about furthering education. The HCA is well received by participants and can be replicated successfully at multiple sites nationally. By providing mentorship, increasing exposure to health professionals and health careers, offering high-level science and health curriculum, and fostering collaboration and presentation skills, the HCA has potential to increase interest in health professions among racial and ethnic minority youth from low-income communities.
KeywordsSchool health Pipeline program Health disparities Adolescent health Medical outreach
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