Project Description


Population: Young people between the ages of 11 and 13

Goal: To increase the interest of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the health sciences and to improve their ability to look for and evaluate health-related information, their health-related literacy and self-efficacy, and their ultimate health outcomes.

Research Questions

  1. How do young people go about looking for and evaluating health-related information online and how do they perceive the various health-related resources available online?
  2. How can we best teach young people to look for and evaluate health-related information online?
  3. What role can school library programs play in teaching and facilitating health information seeking and evaluation skills in young people?
  4. To what extent can we improve young people’s health-related self-efficacy by increasing their health literacy?
  5. To what extent can improved health literacy and improved health self-efficacy lead to better health-related decisions and positive health behavior changes in young people?

Project Context

We are entering a new era in which people are increasingly interested in, and expected to take stewardship of their own health. Along with this desire and responsibility comes the need to be able to effectively and efficiently find, assess, and enact personally relevant health-related information within one’s day-to-day life. Today’s youth have an unprecedented opportunity to learn about and adapt healthy habits that will help them to maximize their chances for living long, healthy lives. However, this opportunity can only be realized if youth have both the requisite information and digital literacy skills and a strong sense of self-efficacy when it comes to their health.

Project Description

HackHealth is a 12-weeks after-school program. Researchers from the University of Maryland work with school librarians in selected middle schools to lead after-school sessions that engage disadvantaged youth in (a) conducting scientific inquiry into health maintenance and/or disease prevention and management; (b) acting as health information intermediaries; and (c) taking action based on what they learn. School librarians are important partners in this endeavor because they are trained information specialists who can teach participants effective strategies for information seeking and credibility assessment. The after-school program includes activities designed to teach youth how to look for and evaluate health-related information online, share the information with their families, and make decisions that will improve their (and their family members’) health. These activities are structured into pods and librarians can customize these pods to meet the needs of their students.

For more information, see our pages on the project phases and pods.