Robert Burns, Ph.D., founding director of the PIHS program, right, visits with the staff of the Owl Creek PreK School in Fayetteville following a performance of the "Healthy Hearts & Lungs" play at the school.
Sept. 10, 2013 | Through a unique statewide outreach program of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), two grants totaling $135,000 will fund professional development for Arkansas’ pre-K-12 teachers.
The UAMS Partners in Health Sciences (PIHS) program, which targets lung, heart and skin health, has reached more than 22,400 teachers and provided nearly 80,000 hours of training throughout the state in its 22-year history. The program has been awarded more than $3.05 million in extramural funding since its inception in 1991.
The most recent funding grants include $100,000 from the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Child Care and Early Education and $35,000 from the Arkansas Department of Health’ Division of Comprehensive Cancer Control Services and Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program.
“In educating and updating teachers on modern health topics, the PIHS program instills in them confidence and gives them the tools to better communicate the importance of a healthy lifestyle to a captive audience of students eager to know more about how the human body works,” said Robert Burns, Ph.D., founding director of the PIHS program, and a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences.
Three of the 202 teachers trained through the program in the last year worked with their preschool and Head Start students in Beebe, Berryville and Fayetteville to offer “Healthy Hearts & Lungs” plays for the students’ parents. A total of 159 parents and family members attended these plays put on by 54 students.
Burns, who has been the sole trainer for the PIHS outreach program since 2001, travels the state offering workshops in community settings, affording teachers a short drive to attend the professional development sessions. They participate in a highly interactive three-hour class and are given kits to help relay that information in their classrooms.
“In the long term, we hope through this outreach effort to help reduce overall health costs for the state by encouraging children to do the things that in the future will help them avoid diseases of the heart, lungs and skin,” Burns said.
Research shows that early intervention is not only the best prevention of smoking, but important in other key health factors, Burns said. A study done by Burns and published in 2011 on the program’s impact shows that more than 98 percent of the workshop’s participants strongly agreed to continue using the tools learned by the PIHS outreach. It also showed a large number of participants used materials and knowledge from the PIHS workshop to develop their own lessons to teach students.
Participants from every county in Arkansas have attended the programs or received instruction through it. Through live video conferences, teachers in Florida, Montana, Texas, New York, West Virginia, Louisiana and California as well as Taiwan also have taken part.
“The program works,” Burns said. “The research shows how motivated and innovative many teachers are in putting to use the training they receive in the workshops. This is preventive medicine through education, increases students’ fundamental knowledge about the human body, and provides them with a solid base from which to make healthy lifestyle choices.”