Maria Sosa, Judy Kass, and Tracy Gath
American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1333 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005.
Recent literacy surveys have found that a large number of adults lack the skills to bring meaning to much of what is written about science. This, in effect, denies them access to vital information about their health and well-being. To address this need, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is developing a 2-year project to provide low-literate adults with the background knowledge necessary to address the social, ethical, and legal implications of the Human Genome Project.
With its Science + Literacy for Health: Human Genome Project, AAAS is using its existing network of adult education providers and volunteer science and health professionals to pursue the following overall objectives: (1) to develop new materials for adult literacy classes, including a high-interest reading book and accompanying curriculum, an implementation framework, a short video providing background information on genetics, a database of resources, and fact sheets that will assist other organizations and researchers in preparing easy-to-read materials about the human genome project, and (2) to develop and conduct a campaign to disseminate project materials to libraries and community organizations carrying out literacy programs throughout the United States.
Because not every low-literate adult is enrolled in a literacy class, our model for helping scientists communicate in simple language will have impact beyond classrooms and learning centers. In preliminary contacts, community groups providing health services have indicated that the proposed materials are not only desirable but needed; indeed such groups often receive requests for information on heredity and genetics. The module developed by AAAS should enable other medical and scientific organizations to communicate more effectively with economically disadvantaged populations, which often include a large number of low-literate individuals.
* Supported by a grant from the Director, Office of Energy Research, Office of Health and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-FG0295ER61988.
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