HealthCorps is an American non-profit organization that provides school-based and organizational health education and peer mentoring in addition to community outreach to under-served populations. Its mission is to strengthen communities by highlighting innovative approaches to health and wellness to build resilience in America's youth. Students learn life-saving skills in nutrition, fitness and mental resilience as well as hands-only CPR training, organ donation and more.
OverviewHealthCorps is a national service program with tax-exempt status under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code. The program claims to impact from 400 to 600 high school students per school per year.
The HealthCorps in-school program makes teens and pre-adolescents stronger by giving them practical life skills through interactive lessons, student-led events and demonstrations focused on the value and power of students' bodies and minds. HealthCorps expects students to become educated consumers and health activists, and they are encouraged to develop positive behavioral shifts that enhance self-esteem.
HealthCorps is based on a peer-mentor model, in which the HealthCorps “Coordinator” is generally a recent college graduate and closer in age to the student. Each HealthCorps "Coordinator" is assigned 1 to 4 schools in which he or she leads lessons and activities on fitness, nutrition and mental resilience. The seminars are taught through health or other academic classes or through after-school clubs, as designated by the school principal. Lesson content is included in a 250-page curriculum and program guide developed in the field by the Coordinators and approved by the HealthCorps Advisory Board.
HistoryHealthCorps was designed in 2003 as a 10-month pilot in partnership with Columbia Presbyterian Hospital as a response to “Healthy People 2010” – an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to advance a nationwide disease prevention agenda that included fighting childhood obesity. As a result, cardiothoracic surgeon Mehmet Oz and his wife, Lisa, founded the educational program based upon the pilot under the auspices of the Foundation for Advanced Cardiac Therapies, a Palm Beach, Florida-based 501c3 organization.
In 2004, HealthCorps launched a lunchtime workshop at George Washington Educational Campus in Washington Heights, New York, led by “HealthCorps Coordinators” – recent college graduates with an interest in health careers who serve as peer-mentors. These Coordinators were trained and supervised by staff from the Touro College Children's Health Education Foundation. A second school, Cathedral High School in Manhattan, was added to the pilot in 2005. By 2006, the HealthCorps network grew to six schools in New York City as well as the Academy of the New Church in Pennsylvania, and two schools in New Jersey Cliffside Park High School and North Bergen High School.
HealthCorps chose youth as its major focus in order to maximize the impact of its programming. Teenagers are often: significant family purchase influencers, family caregivers and autonomous buyers with some expendable income. They also have great capacity to influence a large network of peers.
Original Programming and First Written CurriculumIn 2007, HealthCorps embarked on a national roll-out, extending its health education and mentoring program to 36 schools, including 29 in New York City, two in New Jersey, one in Florida, and one in Pennsylvania. In the same year, the organization incorporated as a 5013 in New York under its own name “HealthCorps, Inc.” and closed out the Florida-based 5013, FACT. By this time all Coordinators were expected to serve full-time, five days a week during the school year teaching both in and out of the classroom. HealthCorps realized that along with delivering curriculum, the program and its network of schools serve as a unique opportunity for discovery of how best to communicate with and understand teens, identify best practices for behavioral change and identify effective regional, state and federal school policy; thus, the name “Living Labs”.
To meet the demands of a thriving program, HealthCorps staff and Board members developed the first written curriculum - combining lessons created by the original nine Coordinators with content from the YOU™ book series authored by HealthCorps Chairman Dr. Mehmet Oz and Advisory Board Member Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic.`
Curriculum EnhancementsSince 2008, as HealthCorps continued to expand into more schools across the US, the curriculum has been regularly enhanced and updated. HealthCorps staff, board members, and Coordinators are vital to curriculum creation and have edited lessons based on their expertise or practical experiences in the classroom. In order to further enhance the curriculum components, HealthCorps has partnered with evidence-based programs such as Atkins Nutritionals, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Sahaja Meditation, Share our Strength/Cooking Matters, Baptiste Foundation, Smarter Lunchrooms, the Chickasaw Nation, and Recover Circle.
Through the HealthCorps curriculum evolution, emphasis is increasingly placed on students developing knowledge as well as skills. Research has demonstrated that developing skills is key to supporting behavioral changes for all ages.
The HealthCorps curriculum aims to enable students to not only better care for their own physical and mental health but also improve wellness in their communities. It focuses on three pillars of health: mental resilience, nutrition and fitness. In addition, the curriculum includes lessons that cover a wide range of other health issues, such as bullying, family meal times, and diabetes.
In classrooms, Coordinators lead lessons from the curriculum that introduce students to health topics though interactive activities and discussions that are not only informative but also engaging.
On the individual level, the curriculum and activities are intended to build resilience and leadership skills as well as raise awareness of healthy behaviors and foster positive change. On the school and community level, HealthCorps programs are intended to promote positive changes to the policies, systems and environments– and to ultimately be absorbed into the culture of the community.
Extracurricular ActivitiesIn addition to teaching in classrooms, coordinators encourage learning by other activities. Coordinators plan and participate in school-wide and community extracurricular activities such as health fairs, walking contests, staff development seminars, gardening, food demonstrations, service projects and after school clubs. HealthCorps activities challenge students to share the knowledge and skills they have learned with their friends, families and communities and to change their world for the better. School and community-wide activities are interspersed throughout the school year as a part of the HealthCorps experience to enhance lessons taught in the classroom.
Programming EnhancementsIn fall 2012, in response to requests from educators for training in the curriculum, HealthCorps piloted a staff training program called “HealthCorps University” in California with the Sacramento Unified School District. The program was chosen as one of twelve to receive pro bono consulting services to affirm its efficacy as a part of the Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge.
Each HealthCorps Living Lab also partners with mission-aligned organizations on a local level such as MD Anderson Cancer Institute’s ASPIRE Program and The Sacramento Food Bank.
ScaleSince its inception in 2003, through all of its programs HealthCorps has impacted approximately 2.3 million students. To date, 400 young people have served as Coordinators, the majority of whom have gone on to medical school. Also, almost 200 middle or high schools in 20 states across America have served as Living Labs.
Current CurriculumThis 5th edition of the HealthCorps curriculum was significantly enhanced as the result of a research partnership begun in 2013 in partnership with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Family Cook Productions. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. One of the key project objectives is to disseminate the USDA Dietary Guidelines for adolescents and utilize student leaders to share skill-based strategies for adhering to them to make these healthy behaviors more socially desirable among youth. This was accomplished in part by designing anonline health behavior survey that produces a personalized assessment,“Healthy Me Snapshot”, for each participant. The HMS identifies which Dietary Guideline a given participant should prioritize to improve and supports students to target this behavior by setting specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely goals. This assessment and goal-setting system has now been incorporated into this edition of the HealthCorps curriculum and eight of the core lessons focus on Dietary Guidelines.
Coordinators in Living Lab schools around the country deliver Healthy Me Journey and administer the Healthy Me Snapshot survey to students prior to administering other chapters. Students set and work towards a health SMART goal throughout the duration of the program. Coordinators administer the Healthy Me Reflection exercise to students after they have participated in the Core Curriculum Units. Each unit of the core curriculum relies on the performance indicators of the National Health Education Standards and the Characteristics of Effective Health Education, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most students participate in the chapter units on a weekly basis over the course of a semester.
Digital CurriculumIn 2013, HealthCorps joined forces with CK-12, a non-profit that has created a digital platform providing free and customizable K-12 educational resources. HealthCorps and CK-12 envisioned their strategic partnership would increase engagement with and access to the HealthCorps free curriculum. Currently, HealthCorps’ free online textbook, HealthCorps - Skills For A Healthy Me, is hosted on the site:
Evaluation and ResearchAs of 2018, research and program evaluation conducted and funded by Affinity Health Plans, the NIH/NIDKK/Albert Einstein School of Medicine have demonstrated that weekly participation in HealthCorps through the curriculum is associated with increased physical activity, self-confidence, consumption of fruit, vegetables and water and decreased consumption of soda. Research and evaluation have also shown that HealthCorps is significantly impactful working with other non-profit programming to enhance their outcomes. Evaluating the quantitative and qualitative effects of both the HealthCorps Living Labs and HealthCorps University programs is an ongoing process aimed at ensuring greater impact into the future.
---- "Effect of HealthCorps, a High School Peer Mentoring Program, on Youth Diet and Physical Activity", Childhood Obesity, 2011, John Cawley, PhD
"Behaviors and Knowledge of HealthCorps New York City High School Students: Nutrition, Mental Health, and Physical Activity", Journal of School Health, 2015, MoonseongHeo, PhD
“Effective nationwide school-based participatory extramural program on adolescent body mass index, health knowledge and behaviors”, BMC Pediatrics, 2018, MoonseongHeo, PhD
"Impact of HealthCorps Program in the Western & Eastern Coachella Valley", Evaluation Report for Desert HealthCare, Joanne Stevelos, MPH
"Efficacy of Teen Battle Chef program to shift the Academic Performance and Health Behaviors in NYC High School Students", Abstract, AHA Scientific Session, 2014, Hyunwoo Park, MS
"The Role of a Mentor and Champion in Implementing ASPIRE ", Abstract, National Tobacco or Health Conference, Austin 2016, Alexander Prokhorov, MD, PhD
ImpactStudies published in BioMed Central, Journal of School Health, and Childhood Obesity evaluated the effects of the HealthCorps program on health knowledge and behaviors. The results identified a correlation between reduced BMI scores in obese female adolescents and the program as well as a decrease in soft drink consumption. It also found improvements in youth dieting and physical activity through the program's education on nutrition and mental health.
Geographical ReachAs of September 2018 HealthCorps was active in the following areas:
Atlanta, Barbourville, Byng, Chickasha, Clay County, Cleveland, Corbin, Davis, Elizabeth, Houston, Hueneme, Jackson County, Kingston, Latta, Los Angeles, Millville, New York City, Owsley County, Oxnard, Perry County, Phoenix, Riverside, San Gorgonio, Tishomingo, Upland, West New York and West Palm Beach
Other areas in which HealthCorps has been active include:
Anderson, Baltimore, Bloomington, Boston, Bridgehampton, Bronx, Brooklyn, Bryn Athyn, Cathedral City, Charlotte, Clarksdale, Cliffside Park, Coachella, Conaga Park, Crescent City, Delray Beach, Desert Hot Springs, Fresno, Hayward, Huntington Valley, Lantana, Laurel, Long Beach, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, North Bergen, Oklahoma City, Palm Beach, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Portland, Queens, Rancho Mirage, Sacramento, San Diego, San Fernando, San Lorenz, Santa Shafter, Shelby, Staten Island, Stockton, Syosset, Tampa, Thermal, Tucson, Tucson, Washington D.C., Wellington and Wilmington