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Health Literacy for Children

August is the month that the freedom of being off of school loses its novelty. It becomes the domain of “I’m bored!” and “What do I do now?”.

I have a small proposal. Why not use that time to improve the health literacy of your child? Health literacy is defined as the ability to find, understand and use information and services to inform health related decisions and actions for yourself and others.

Over the many years that I have been practising family medicine, I have come to appreciate more and more that knowledge is power. Those who understand their bodies and how to cope with illness fare much better than those who relinquish that power to their health care provider.

Having some basic health literacy helps both children and adults take charge when faced with illness.  Moreover, an understanding of one’s own reproductive health means that we can take preventive measure to lessen the risk of disease. For our daughters, having the language to understand contraception and sexual violence empowers them to avoid high risk situations.

The CDC (Centres for Disease Control) has an excellent curriculum to help young people learn to understand and to use information around their health. They have compiled a list of resources divided by age to address certain areas of health awareness. For the pre-K crowd, Ray and the Sunbeatables from MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas is a great resource to learn about skin cancer prevention.

For elementary school, they recommend the American Public Health Association’s ECO Bookworms book club that suggests books about health and climate change. The CDC also has free downloadable books under the banner “Eagle Books K-4” that teach healthy living and diabetes prevention. There is an Eagle Books extension for students from grade 5 to 8 too. 

The various resources are listed on the CDC website at cdc.gov/healthliteracy.

August is a good time for the lazy, hazy days of summer but when boredom arises, sitting with your child to explore this area will have great payoffs in the end.


Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and grandmother of one lovely princess! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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