Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Long-Term Outcomes of the ¡VIVA! Peer Tutor Project: Use of MedlinePlus by Former Peer Tutors and the Adults They Taught* *

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Long-Term Outcomes of the ¡VIVA! Peer Tutor Project: Use of MedlinePlus by Former Peer Tutors and the Adults They Taught* *

Article excerpt


In 2001, Biblioteca Las Americas (BLA), a school library in the South Texas Independent School District (STISD), began the Vital Information for a Virtual Age (iVIVA!) Peer Tutor Project, in which high school students promote MedlinePlus in their high schools and communities. MedlinePlus and its companion site, MedlinePlus en español, are consumer health information websites maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) [I]. Approximately 80% of the STISD student population is Hispanic [2]. The district serves counties that are medically underserved [3] and have poverty rates that are double the national average [4].[dagger]

The iVIVA! Peer Tutor Project started as a partnership between the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) Libraries and BLA, when the former received funding from NLM to conduct health information outreach projects in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley [5]. Four high school students from the STISD's South Texas High School for Health Professions (Med High), with training and guidance from a UTHSCSA medical librarian, taught their peers and faculty members about MedlinePlus in the first year of the project. The project is now administered directly by BLA and has been extended to all four high schools in the district, which consists of two health careers high schools; a science and technology high school; and a business, education, and technology high school. NLM has supported the project for almost ten years, through funding either to STISD or UTHSCSA. The school district's administrators have strongly endorsed the project, and the BLA librarians have built a network of librarians and faculty who actively participate as mentors and advisors.

Details of the project and its evaluation were published in 2005 [6]. Peer tutors promote MedlinePlus to their peers and teachers through class demonstrations, student orientations, school health fairs, and extracurricular activities such as the Health Occupations Students of America meetings. Over the years, they have extended their reach to parents and the community through school open houses, local health fairs, fun runs, and motorcycle rallies. A popular outreach site for peer tutors is the Harlingen Boys and Girls Club, where they promote health information to children and teens.

The 2005 article published assessment results from a questionnaire completed by 500 Med High students in 2003, at the end of the project's first year. Results showed that 66% of respondents reported using MedlinePlus and 52% had referred the resource to others [6]. More recent evaluation data, described in iVTVA! subcontract reports, showed high awareness of MedlinePlus among STISD students. For example, questionnaires administered to attendees at iVIVA! health careers fairs held in 2009 and 2010 (primarily students from the STISD's health careers high schools) found that 69% and 89%, respectively, knew about MedlinePlus [7, 8]. Attendee response rates for the 2009 and 2010 events were an estimated 69% and 50%, respectively.

Evaluation of the program's effect on the peer tutors themselves and on the school district has been ongoing and involves multiple methods - including focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and written assessments - to collect feedback from peer tutors, administrators, faculty, and librarians. In interviews, peer tutors consistently report using MedlinePlus to research their own and their families' health concerns. Interviews with aclministrators and teachers show they agree with the students.

Peer tutors and their teachers also report that the experience provides a unique learning opportunity, in which students develop not only health information literacy skUls, but also self-confidence; pubUc speaking abitity; and interpersonal communication, teamwork, and project management skills [7, 8]. Administrators believe the project has enhanced the school district in a number of ways, including promoting student involvement in teaching, providing highquatity community service learning opportunities, and showcasing the special learning environment of the school district to the community [9]. …

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