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Center for Health Literacy Student Projects

This page has information about projects completed by students who have worked with the Center.

Graphics representing project management
Read on to learn about student-led projects!

Doctoral Students

Title: Identifying and Understanding Health Literacy Barriers to Screening for Lung Cancer among Older Adult Long-Term Smokers: A Grounded Theory Study

Ms. Platter's dissertation explores if health literacy relates to intentions and behaviors for lung cancer screening among current smokers, or former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years, who are between the age of 55 to 80 years old and have a 30-pack year smoking history. Using a grounded theory approach, four domains of health literacy (patient-provider communication, stigma, access and navigation of the healthcare system, and health information seeking behaviors) will be explored through semi-structured intensive interviews with older adults eligible for lung cancer screening. Given the current dismal screening rates, it is critical that potential barriers to lung cancer screening are explored to inform future lung cancer screening interventions.

Title: National Survey of Dental Students About Their Knowledge, Skills, Self-efficacy and Intention to Use Selected Communication Techniques and Caries Preventive Regimens

Effective dentist-patient communication is critical to quality patient care. Effective communication can increase patient health literacy by helping patients understand health information, treatment options and behaviors that promote health and prevent disease. Ms. Maybury’s dissertation examines fourth year dental students’ perspectives about the education and training they receive about communication techniques. Findings will be used to inform dental curricula development and board examinations.

Title: Parental Health Literacy, Empowerment, and Advocacy in the Context of Food Allergy Management in Schools

Ms. Koo’s research examines the associations among parental communicative and critical health literacy, empowerment, and advocacy behaviors in the context of food allergy management in elementary schools. She will use a nationwide sample of parents of school-age children with food allergies from a food allergy support group for an online survey. Health literacy will be measured with an adapted version of Ishikawa, Takeuchi, & Yano’s Functional, Communicative, & Critical Health Literacy Scale. Future research will explore the relationships among critical health literacy, empowerment, and advocacy for other health conditions.

Master Students

Title: A Policy, Systems, and Environment (PSE) Approach to Organizational Health Literacy in a County Health Coalition

Ms. Butt is helping staff the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Health Literacy Sub-committee, part of the Health Equity Workgroup in the county’s Healthcare Action Coalition. The sub-committee is using a PSE approach to collect and review the health literacy policies in the county’s public health and healthcare services organizations and encourages organizations to develop policies. The sub-committee is also working to implement the 2012 Cultural Competency and Health Literacy Education Act (Maryland) in the county. The Act encourages all healthcare professionals to have cultural competence and health literacy training.  

Title: The Creation of Infographics Synthesizing Content from Healthy Teen Dating: A Guide for Educators and Youth Service Providers

Ms. Creamer used the CDC Clear Communication Index and other design tools to create six infographics to help disseminate healthy teen dating resources to professionals who work with middle and high school-aged youth and direct more traffic to an online resource guide. This project was done in collaboration with the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention Healthy Teen Dating Workgroup. 

Title: Partnership Strategy for the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy

To ensure the successful re-development of a statewide health literacy coalition, Ms. Higginbotham developed a partnership and communication strategic plan based on interviews with former coalition members and the goals of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. The student's plan included background information, a list of relationships to cultivate, and stratgies with corresponding concrete and specific goals and objectives. This strategic plan became the reference guide for the re-launch of Health Literacy Maryland in August 2018.

Title: The Role of Latino Men in Health Literacy and Family Health 

Mr. Woodard is conducting exploratory research on how Latino men affect health literacy and family health, especially for chronic disease prevention. The project involves a literature review, qualitative interviews with Latino families, and a summary report with recommendations for future projects. 

Undergraduate Students

Ms. Farahani reviewed the literature on how to include health literacy skill building in adult basic education and English as a Second Language instruction and drafted a project plan and questionnaires to include the Institute for Healthcare Advancement’s What to Do When Your Child Gets Sick book in a family literacy program. 

2022 Social Action Award

Congratulations to Haja Kumalah! Ms. Kumalah, a junior Behavioral and Community student, won the 2022 Social Action Student Award for her proposed Black Health Matters project. The Social Action Student Award is given annually to a School of Public Health undergraduate student who demonstrates excellence in social action through a planned event, campaign or project designed to improve the well-being of traditionally marginalized groups. Black Health Matters will provide culturally relevant resources to support the mental health and academic performance of Black University of Maryland College Park (UMD) students. Dr. Catherine Maybury from the Horowitz Center will support Ms. Kumalah on this project. The award is for $1500.

Black Health Matters will take a peer education approach, employing quantitative and qualitative measures to determine what students require, what they are struggling with — both mentally and intellectually — and what can be done to help them. Promoting equitably distributed mental health services and initiatives that help Black students on campus establish and maintain excellent mental health is critical to their academic performance. The ultimate purpose of Black Health Matters is to give Black UMD students an additional opportunity to obtain culturally relevant support for their mental health and academic achievement


Ms. Haile reviewed the literature on diabetes prevention programs, with a particular focus on those that involve health literacy or examine the barriers and facilitators for participation in the CDC Diabetes Prevention Program and other evidence-based, effective diabetes prevention activities. 

Ms. Obasiolu conducted background research on each Maryland county's health priorities, attended county Local Health Improvement Coalition (LHIC) meetings, and noted whether and to what extent each county prioritized health literacy. Based on her findings and observations, the student-created next step recommendations for LHICs and for the Center.

Ms. Ogallo supported the Center's collaboration in 2019 with UnitedHealth Group. Read below to learn more about this project.


The Horowitz Center partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to add behavioral health terms to UHG’s Just Plain Clear Glossary, a plain language glossary of health insurance and health care terms that consumers, health care providers, and insurance companies use. The glossary - available now in English, Spanish, and Portuguese - aims to help patients and health consumers make informed decisions about their health.

The Center and UHG updated the glossary based on terms that patients frequently search for. The Center’s role was to identify the terms, specifically relating to behavioral health, and create a plain language definition for each term. The terms and definitions underwent an internal UHG review process and translation before the term was added to the glossary.


The glossary project targets two groups.

  • Doctors, insurance companies, and other healthcare professionals
  • Patients and health consumers

Healthcare professionals can use the glossary to learn plain language and communicate with patients in a way that they will understand. Professionals may be used to medical jargon, and the glossary provides alternate terms and plain language definitions of each term. 

Patients can use the glossary if their provider gives them information using terms they don’t understand. If they also have take-home documents that use terms they don’t understand, the glossary can help to clarify. 


The Center provided UHG with plain language definitions for more than 40 complex terms. The UHG editors and staff reviewed our recommendations and added these terms to the glossary.

Below are a few of the many Center-suggested terms that UHG added to the glossary: