Arkansas Children's Hospital Expands HealthTeacher Distribution to Public Schools

Arkansas Children’s Hospital of Little Rock is expanding a health tutoring program to make it available at all Arkansas public schools.

HealthTeacher is an online curriculum created by HealthTeacher Inc. that provides lesson plans to K-12 school teachers across 10 different subject areas. It was developed in 1999 and is intended to address leading health risks identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Since 2009, Children’s Hospital has helped pay for public schools in Arkansas to access the curriculum, and this rollout will expand access to the rest of the schools in the state.

“It’s corrected and updated on a daily basis,” said Scott Gordon, executive vice president of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Gordon said he learned about HealthTeacher through the Children’s Hospital Association.

“They recommended that we look at it,” Gordon said.

The hospital rolled out the program in about 200 schools, he said, and response was positive.

“Year over year there was strong anecdotal information from teachers on the ease of using it in team-teaching approaches,” Gordon said. “And now all of the material is tied to the Common Core, which is the new gold standard for educators.”

He said a three-year study will be released soon to show exactly how well the program has been received, and Gordon expects it to show very positive results.

Initially, he said, the program was scattered through the state, but eventually Children’s Hospital partnered with Mercy Health of Chesterfield, Mo., which owns hospitals in several Arkansas cities, and HealthTeacher was deployed in those areas as well.

The network eventually expanded to include 590 schools in the state, or about half of the state’s public schools.

“This year, I took to our board of directors a proposal to expand it to all public schools in Arkansas,” Gordon said. “I said we needed to make that jump. Too many other areas need help. We will be available in every public and charter school in the state.”

The program is offered for free to schools wanting to use it, Gordon said. The costs are shouldered by Children’s Hospital’s community benefit fund.

“We have a whole series of things we do around the state to promote the health status of children,” Gordon said.

He did not have an exact dollar figure but said Health Teacher has so far cost the hospital somewhere in the “low- to mid-six figures.”

The rollout will take a couple of years, Gordon said, but when it’s complete, Arkansas will be the first state in HealthTeacher’s history to have access to the program in all of its public schools.

“HealthTeacher has about three and a half people in the state working full time to help schools get online, learn to use the program, serve as resources and troubleshoot,” Gordon said. “It’s an ongoing process. Even though it’s free, sometimes people are skeptical. We have to overcome the skepticism of ‘Where’s the catch?’ There’s no catch; we just want students to get access to it.”