United States Department of Health and Human Services


Outreach Activities and Resources

National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

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Peer Tutoring for High School
A Guide for Assessing If This Program Can Work for You

Project/Program Dates: 2001 - ongoing

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Office of Health Information Programs Development (OHIPD) has supported a health information outreach project at magnet high schools in South Texas (Lower Rio Grande Valley). This highly acclaimed project uses high school peer tutors to train the student body in online health information, featuring MedlinePlus and other NLM health information websites.

The project is managed by the Biblioteca Las Américas Library, South Texas Independent School District (STISD).

During 2013, the project staff prepared an implementation guide that includes all the information needed for other organizations interested in using or adapting the peer tutor model for health literacy in their own schools and communities. Appendices to the guide provide dozens of sample documents and forms useful in project implementation.

These materials are now publicly accessible at no charge for online download.

Project Mission

The Peer Tutoring Project described here is intended to help improve the health literacy of high school students through their direct involvement in learning how to use reliable online health information resources effectively, and then training other students to do the same. This may extend to community outreach as well, where peer tutors participate in health fairs and similar events in their local and regional areas.

Health information literacy includes the individual’s ability to recognize a need for health information; locate health information resources; retrieve and assess the quality and applicability of health information; and use the information when making health decisions (MLA, 2003).

The Peer Tutoring Project started with a two-year pilot project in 2001-2003, and completed its tenth year of peer tutor cohorts at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. Health literacy is strongly associated with good health.

The project has used the NLM consumer health information website, MedlinePlus, as a primary online resource for the participating students.

Originally known as the MedlinePlus Peer Tutor Project, the project is now known as the iVIVA! (Vital Information for a Virtual Age) Peer Tutor Project.

Project Collaboration

From its inception, the project has been a collaboration of high school librarians, teachers, and students, with strong administrative support and the assistance of medical librarians and evaluation specialists.

The project started at the South Texas High School for Health Professions (Med High), which is a magnet high school in the STISD. Med High is located in Mercedes, TX. In recent years, the other three magnet high schools in STISD have joined the iVIVA! Peer Tutor Project. They are Science Academy of South Texas (Sci Tech) in Mercedes, South Texas Academy for Medical Professions (Medical Academy) in San Benito, and South Texas Business, Education & Technology Academy (BETA) in Edinburg.

The lead library for this project is Biblioteca Las Américas (BLA), which directly serves the students and faculty of Med High and Sci Tech, and provides project leadership for all four schools.

Implementation Guide

The purpose of this implementation guide is to assist school staff and other program directors of relevant youth organizations to assess whether the Peer Tutoring model for health literacy is a good fit for their schools or organizations.

Also the guide provides information on lessons learned and key steps in the actual implementation.

Website link for free download of the implementation guide and sample materials: http://viva.stisd.net/implementation.html and http://viva.stisd.net/pdf/guide.pdf (PDF, 7.43 MB)

If you have questions about implementing the program at your school or youth organization, or wish to discuss the project in greater depth, the peer tutoring staff at STISD and the project oversight staff at the NLM and the South Central Regional Medical Library are available to assist. See their contact information below.

National Library of Medicine:
Dr. Fred Wood, fredwood@mail.nih.gov, 301-402-9278
Dr. Barbara Rapp, rappb@mail.nlm.nih.gov, 301-496-2311

National Network of Libraries of Medicine, South Central Region:
Ms. Karen Vargas, karen.vargas@exch.library.tmc.edu, 713-799-7880

South Texas Independent School District:
Ms. Lucy Hansen, Lead Librarian, lucy.hansen@stisd.net, 956-514-4268
Ms. Sara Reibman, Librarian, sara.reibman@stisd.net, 956-514-4269
Ms. Ann Vickman, Librarian, ann.vickman@stisd.net, 956-514-4270
Dr. Cindy Olney, Evaluation Consultant, olneyc@coevaluation.com, 678-682-3864