Student journalism program connects health leader to local community

Dr. Bettigole with a Healthy Hero reporter

August 2017 … Sometimes Healthy NewsWorks interviews are as much a revelation for the health leaders as for the student reporters.

When Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the director of the Division of Chronic Disease Prevention in Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, was interviewed by the fifth grade reporters at St. Veronica Catholic School’s Healthy Hero, she was impressed from the moment she got to the school.

“I was greeted by two very, very polite kids who took me up to the classroom. The kids were very prepared. They had great questions,” she said. “It’s also really fun to be in a room with kids who are trying to do something like this.”

Dr. Bettigole was selected as a health leader for the sixth Healthy NewsWorks book, Leading Healthy Change in Our Communities 2017, because of her work in making health information more accessible to Philadelphia residents. When she was asked to participate in an interview, she said the nature of the program interested her and she wanted to get involved.

“It sounded like a great program. I’ve taken care of kids in actually a very similar neighborhood and I liked the idea of a program that is very positive, that teaches the kids real skills, and also teaches them to aspire to become journalists,” she said. “I think one of the things that helps kids succeed is to be able to picture themselves succeeding, and for kids to have the chance to try on that identity.”

Dr. Bettigole said the face-to-face experience has a real value to the health leaders.

“One of the things we’ve been talking about internally is how do we make sure we are responding to the needs of community members,” Dr. Bettigole said, referring to her work at the Department of Public Health.  She enjoys opportunities to “get out of the office to talk to people” about their lives. “I learn from that every time I do it,” she said.

—By Zubin Hill


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