The Partners in Health Sciences (PIHS) program, which targets lung, heart and skin health, has reached more than 21,300 teachers and provided nearly 80,000 hours of training throughout the state since its inception in 1991. The program has been awarded more than $2.9 million in extramural funding since 1991.
"There are about 90 million children in schools in the nation and this represents a captive audience wanting to know more about how the human body works," said Bob Burns, Ph.D., founding director of the PIHS program, and a professor in the UAMS Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences. "By bringing their teachers up to speed in modern health science topics, the PIHS program gives them the confidence and tools to better communicate the importance of a healthy lifestyle."
The PIHS program at UAMS was recently awarded $100,000 from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, $55,378 from the Arkansas Cancer Coalition and $25,000 from the Arkansas Department of Health.
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.
"Because diseases of the heart, lungs and skin begin in childhood, this outreach effort will eventually have an impact on the health of Arkansans," Burns said. "Ultimately we're looking at making a noticeable reduction in the overall health care costs of the state."
Research shows that early intervention is not only the best prevention of not 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.
"The program works," Burns said. "The research show how motivated and innovative many teachers are relative to 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."