National Center on Health


 $1.4 Million Grant Gives Boost to UCLA Anderson Program

New funding will bring health literacy to more low-income families 


Los Angeles, Nov. 18, 2011-Amid reports that an increasing number of Americans are living below the poverty level, UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Health Care Institute (HCI) is expanding its efforts to help low-income families.

The HCI, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with several other partners, was chosen by the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to establish a center of excellence for Head Start to serve the nation.  HCI will receive $1.4 million dollars out of the $12 million grant over four years for its role in the Office of Head Start National Center for Health.

HCI plans to expand its work in health literacy, educating teachers, parents and children on a range of health care topics.  These activities will include live training sessions, customized simplified multi-lingual handouts for families on topics ranging from prenatal education for a healthy pregnancy, management of common childhood illnesses, good oral health practices, accident prevention in the home, and nutrition, training manuals for staff and teachers, and technical assistance to Head Start agencies to help them meet low literacy needs for health promotion for the vulnerable populations they serve.

"These funds come at a time when our nation still seeks ways to improve health literacy and control health care costs," says UCLA Anderson Senior Associate Dean Alfred E. Osborne.  "This will provide more families with the appropriate tools and skills  to empower them in their health decision making, and the net benefits will follow - not just for common childhood ailments, but also in nutrition to fight childhood obesity and diabetes, improved oral health status and prenatal health education."

This health literacy program was developed by Dr. Ariella Herman, UCLA Anderson senior lecturer and HCI research director, and the HCI team.  Together they created a series of low-literacy learning materials, manuals and protocols supporting this education process to enhance the fundamental skills of health literacy. 

"People often do not recognize the importance of health literacy, which makes a coalition like this so important," says Herman.  "The combination of renowned partners in the medical field with management expertise from the Anderson School brings extraordinary opportunity to improve the health of children and families in Head Start, with implementation of strong health education and prevention programs.

"Just knowing the appropriate response for concerns arising during pregnancy, when a child is sick, or how to provide one's family with a healthy diet on a limited budget can be powerful; this low-cost dose of prevention is important for improving health and is what the new legislation of the Affordable Care Act calls for," she adds.

The 2010 HHS National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy recognized the significance of health literacy in the nation's health agenda.  "It is the currency for everything we do," said Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health for the US Department of Health and Human Services in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, Forward 2010.

To date, Herman estimates 50,000 families in the U.S. have benefited from HCI's work over the past decade.  With this new grant, HCI is preparing to double that number nationally in the next four years.

"Health knowledge and awareness is one thing, but the successful implementation of behavioral change in Head Start agencies and families is quite another," says Conrad Person, Johnson & Johnson's director of corporate contribution.  "J&J is delighted with the impact and influence of Dr. Herman's research and is pleased to see this effort continued on a larger scale with the establishment of a National Center for Health."

"UCLA is known for its public mission and service to communities," says UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian.  "Dr. Herman's application of management principles to health education achieves powerful impact by addressing societal challenges through business theory and advanced practices.  That's what we do at UCLA Anderson."