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Commentary: Rx for Understanding: Free Online Tool to Teach Students

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Medicine—whether over-the-counter or prescription—is an important part of a modern health care system. Who would want a world without penicillin or acetaminophen? But medicine is only effective when it is used properly, and for young people moving to adulthood, learning how to use medicine properly is a critical life skill.

Research shows that one in four teenagers report that they have taken a prescription drug not prescribed to them by a doctor at least once in their lives. Middle school is often when students start to make the wrong choice.

Recognizing the scope of the problem, the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) set out to determine what we could do to help teachers and families help students. After looking at what was available, NEA HIN created Rx for Understanding which includes 10 cross-curricular lessons for middle school students. Aligned with the National Health Education Standards and Common Core State Standards, the lessons aim to equip students with the understanding and decision-making skills they need to recognize and avoid the dangers of misusing and abusing prescription drugs.

By focusing on the three basic concepts of proper use, misuse and abuse, the lessons help to build knowledge and skills that young people need. These involve not only learning the facts about drugs, but include activities that build skills such as information gathering, advocacy for good health choices and making responsible health decisions.

Rx for Understanding was developed and pilot-tested with input from educators around the country. Users report that the lessons are “easy-to-use” and “accessible.” Because lessons are aligned to various content areas, they can be included in various parts of the middle school curriculum.

Nora L. Howley
Manager of Programs
NEA Health Information Network
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