Northeastern Illinois University Physical Education Complex

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County has awarded Northeastern Illinois University a $25,000 grant to address health literacy for Lake County youth.

The award will be used to fund a project titled Community-Based Approach to Improving Access to Healthcare via a Targeted Health Literacy Curriculum. The project, which will be administered by Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (HPERA) Associate Professor Jennifer Banas, is a partnership between Northeastern and Waukegan High School. It seeks to redesign the high school’s existing health literacy curriculum to better engage students and their families in developing health literacy, becoming self-advocates in gaining access to appropriate health care, and introducing youth to careers in health care.

“Community-Based Approach to Improving Access to Healthcare via a Targeted Health Literacy Curriculum has the ability to impact the participating students and their families for years to come,” said Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County Program Officer Angela Baran. “An educated and engaged healthcare consumer is better able to access care and live a healthy life.”

Banas will partner with Sarah Gershon, a friend and colleague who is a high school health education teacher at Waukegan High School.

“In addition to the curriculum redesign, will be conducting research to investigate the impact of the curriculum on health care behaviors at home and long-term steps taken toward a career in health,” Banas said.

Prior to joining Northeastern’s faculty, Banas worked for four years as a county health department educator and for six years as a high school health education teacher. There she learned about adolescents who act as language and cultural brokers for family members with limited English proficiency in health care situations.

“Imagine being 14 years old and helping Mom to fill out medical forms, negotiating Dad's medical bill with the insurance company on the phone or looking up on the Internet for ways to treat an aunt's diabetes,” Banas said. “This wasn't my experience, but it is for many.”  

In collaboration with Gershon and two Northeastern colleagues—HPERA Assistant Professor James Ball and Library Associate Professor Lisa Wallis—Banas has published two articles on the initial investigation into the topic of adolescent healthcare brokering.

“I am very excited about this grant,” Banas said. “It demonstrates Northeastern’s investment into the community and faculty commitment to engage community members in research that ultimately aims to improve the quality of life for others.”

Jennifer Banas